Protesters march against a proposed First Nations Education Act Wednesday morning. The NAN-hosted rally was organized to pressure the government to give control of First Nation education to First Nation leadership.
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First Nation leaders say they’re ready to control their own education, but remain skeptical the federal government will give up that control.
First Nation representatives across Canada have been voicing opposition to the federal government's proposed First Nations Education Act since it was first quietly released in October.
Now in the middle of a two-month period to hear input on the draft legislation, Nishnawbe Aski Nation hosted a march to the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada offices Wednesday morning to say “no” to the act.
NAN Deputy Chief Goyce Kakeganmic said the federal government wondered if there was grassroots opposition to the act.
With dozens of students, men and women rallying in the wind and cold, it's not just First Nations politicians who are upset over the idea he said.
"The government is pushing this issue down out throats without consultation," Kakegamic said. "It's the people themselves that are standing up today."
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While operation and some administration would be controlled by band councils, under the act the federal government would still control standards such as curriculum.
Union of Ontario Indians Northern Superior Grand Chief Peter Collins said First Nations are ready to control their own education system in its entirety. A template for how that could work has even been written and sent to the federal government with no reply yet.
"We don't see that yet and we don't see that happening anytime soon," he said.
"We don't need the government dictating to us who we are, what we are and how we should be governed."
Kakegamic and Collins said there are challenges in First Nations education right now but by taking control of the system, First Nations themselves could improve the situation.
"First Nations aren't failing, it's the system failing First Nations," Kakegamic told the rally.
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The proposed act can be read here.