An open letter to the Prime Minister on Bill C-33

Posted by: Grand Chief Gord Peters
in: Opinion

he Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington St.
Ottawa, ON   K1A 0A2

Subject: Open Letter to the Prime Minister on Bill C-33 (to be published)

Dear Prime Minister,

Since 1867, the Government of Canada has been paternalistic and adversarial in denying our inherent rights that flow from our homelands and violates our treaties with the Crown. Yet Canada never had the right to assume jurisdiction over our peoples and our lands. After the 1982 repatriation of the Constitution, there have been attempts to repair the historical injustices in our relationship through constitutional conferences and other processes, including the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Unfortunately, none have ever achieved their promised outcome.

On June 11th, 2008 you said on behalf of Canadians that assimilation “has no place in our country.” Yet in Bill C-33, First Nations Control of First Nation Education Act, control of our children’s education is still vested in the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. Compounding this issue is the fact that the Minister is not accountable to First Nations while we bear the burden of financial accountability and legal liability for our education systems and our schools. This is no different than the current structure of operations where jurisdiction is interpreted as administrative control.

Mr. Prime Minister, Bill C-33 does not meet the very standard set out in your apology and continues the legacy of assimilation. As such, we strongly reject this legislation and will oppose all efforts to enact its provisions.
We are in agreement with your Minister on two main areas: First, there must be radical change to move beyond our current graduation rates. Second, the five conditions outlined in Assembly of First Nations Resolution 21/2013 must be met for positive and sustained change. However, both the legislation and the process in drafting it have failed to satisfy the five conditions, meaning that this will not produce the change that our children demand.

The promise of increased funding only after the Bill’s adoption remains a tool to divide and conquer First Nations.  The increased funding should instead represent Canadian values of equality and fairness and be provided immediately.

We must move quickly to embark on a new approach that is capable of meeting the five conditions. Step one is to ensure that your Minister removes Bill C-33 from the Order Paper. Once this action is complete, we are prepared to begin negotiations immediately. Anything less than core jurisdiction and proper funding over our children’s learning will mean an education system that continues to “fail them profoundly.”

Sincerely,

Grand Chief Gordon Peters

CC. Chiefs Council
Hon. Bernard Valcourt , Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

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