Source: Waubageshig, Former Director of Education, Cree School Board, James Bay, Quebec and co-founder, Indigenous Studies, Trent University, Peterborough.
Summary: First Nations elementary-secondary education has been the focus of some useful recommendations in two major reports: the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples in 2011, “Reforming FN Education: From Crisis to Hope,” and the 2012 Report of the National Panel on First Nations Elementary-Secondary Education.
Both reports identified much-needed reforms and despite vociferous opposition by a majority of FN leaders the First Nations Education Act was a serious effort to accommodate some of them. But neither the reports nor the eventually torpedoed Bill C-33 zeroed in on the three key components that serve as the foundation of any education program: teachers, principals, and the curriculum. If these three elements remain untouched in the new Liberal government’s First Nations education policies, First Nations education outcomes will continue to be a national humiliation.
Since the 1950s, these elements in First Nations education have not received the degree of critical attention they should have from First Nations and other educators, largely because all three fall under the jurisdiction of provincial ministries of education. And since the federal government is the principal government that interacts with First Nations, provincial legislatures tend to be ignored by FN leaders, often at their peril.