Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 12 - Evidence - October 26, 2010
OTTAWA, Tuesday, October 26, 2010
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 9:30 a.m. to examine the federal
government's constitutional, treaty, political and legal responsibilities to First Nations, Inuit and Metis peoples, and
other matters generally relating to the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada (topic: issues concerning First Nations
Senator Gerry St. Germain (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good morning. I would like to welcome all honourable senators, members of the public and all viewers
from across the country who are watching these proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples
on CPAC or on the Web.
I am Senator Gerry St. Germain from British Columbia, and I have the honour of chairing this committee.
The mandate of this committee is to examine legislation and matters relating to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada
generally. Given this mandate, the committee has undertaken a study to examine possible strategies for reform
concerning First Nations primary and secondary education, with a view to improving outcomes. Among other things,
the study will focus on the following: tripartite and partnership education agreements, governance and delivery
structures, and possible legislative frameworks.
This meeting will be divided into two panels, honourable senators. For the first hour, the committee has invited
witnesses from the Blackfoot Confederacy and from Six Nations of the Grand River, located in Brantford, Ontario.
During the second hour, we will hear from the First Nations Education Steering Committee of British Columbia.
Before hearing our witnesses, allow me to introduce the members of the committee who are present today.
On my left is Senator Nick Sibbeston from the Northwest Territories; Senator Elizabeth Hubley from the Province
of Prince Edward Island; and Senator Larry Campbell from British Columbia. On my right is Senator Dennis
Patterson from Nunavut; Senator Carolyn Stewart Olsen from New Brunswick; Senator Rose-May Poirier from New
Brunswick; and last but definitely not least is Senator Jacques Demers from Quebec.
I do not know if you have made an arrangement as to who will present first. Being the gentlemen we are from the
West, we will yield to the good lady on the chief's right. Councillor, if you are prepared, I would like you to keep your
remarks as tight as possible; there will be a lot of questions, so do the best you can. You have the floor.
Claudine VanEvery-Albert, Councillor, Six Nations of the Grand River:
[The witness spoke in her native language.]
My name is Claudine VanEvery-Albert. I am from Six Nations of the Grand River and am a member of the elected
council there. I have been an educator for many, many years, and I tell people that I have been educating for as long as
dirt has been on this earth.
I would like to begin by summarizing our relationship with the federal and provincial governments to this point. As
you know, we have had our own education systems among the Haudenosaunee people, also known as Iroquois, for
thousands of years, before the coming of the Europeans.
I want to refer to the British North America Act of 1867. Section 91.24 gave education to the provinces. However,
the education of First Nations was kept by the federal government, which causes some of the dilemma we are in today.
You are all very aware of the residential school period, a very dark period for our people, and we are still struggling
with those effects. My mother, who is with me today, was at a residential school, as was her father. There is a lot of
discussion around residential schools in my home.
One of the brighter spots beginning in 1972 was the Indian Control of Indian Education document by what was then
called the National Indian Brotherhood. It gave rise to many of the good things that we have in First Nations
education today: fully certified teachers who are Aboriginal people, who were Haudenosaunee people in our case;
guidance councillors; better schools; and First Nations education from our perspective, to some degree.
Following the residential schools, came the Indian day schools and that is what we attend now in my community.
We have five regular schools. Part of my brief lays out what education looks like at Six Nations. During the question
and answer period, I would be happy to share some of that information with you.
The Constitution Act of 1982 continued with section 91.24 that keeps Aboriginal people as Indians on land reserved
for Indians. It also includes section 35, which gives us our treaty rights.
The Ontario Education Act and other acts at the provincial level speak in some measure to First Nations education,
but very little. In 2007, they put together a framework for Aboriginal education in the province for students who do
not reside on reserve. However, there is no mention specifically of those who reside on and go to school on reserve
because that remains a federal responsibility.
If you want to know more about First Nations education in Ontario, this document was prepared and is available
on the Chiefs of Ontario website. It is a big document and was written by Aboriginal people and Aboriginal educators
across Ontario. It gives an excellent picture of not only where we are but what we want and what is important for us in
I will provide the website following this meeting.
I think the most important document we have today was written at the Assembly of First Nations. It is called First
Nations Control of First Nations Education. That is also available at the Assembly of First Nations website, and it is in
That brings us up to date on where we are from a legislative and policy perspective.
The Chair: Would you like this brief you have submitted to us to be part of the record? We could make it part of
record, if you so wish.
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: That would be good, thank you.
Reg Crowshoe, Chief, Blackfoot Confederacy: Good morning. I am from the Piikani Nation, a Blackfoot speaking
community in Southern Alberta. Most of my research was done in cultural education and language and cultural
practices of the Piikani Nation.
My colleague talked about the legislative and provincial policies that got us here to this date. I just want to talk
about the perspective that we work with in Piikani Blackfoot with regard to education. In our speaking community,
our thought processes are from an oral perspective. Our language comes from that oral perspective.
Part of our community research examined education and practices, learning methods from our First Nations
perspective. When we talk about our oral perspective, we are talking about two types of thinkers that the elders
identified. When they talked about First Nations oral thinkers, they talked about a world view, a practice, and
products that came out of that practice.
In our world view, we believe everything is equal — air, land, water, plants. Historically, from that concept of
equality, the language and the oral systems of dealing with uncertainty, whether it is education or other issues in our
lives, we developed our practices.
There were four components that were very important in oral education. I think it is important across the board,
including cultures around the world that have an oral culture. The four components we looked at were venue, action,
language and song. Those four components also relate to our First Nation oral practices dealing with education.
When we talk about the products that come from this oral practice, for example, when we are moving from one age
grade level to another, songs are very important because songs are our physical documentation of authorities and
responsibilities in our world view. That is the world view we come from.
When we started experiencing Western education, especially through the residential school years — and I was also
part of the residential school system, I went to a residential school on Piikani Nation — the practice of education came
from a Western belief system and a Western practice. Even the way you sat in the classroom was totally different.
When you are exposed to a different practice, you have to legitimize or validate the practice of education. In my
case, it took me about two, maybe three years of failing in that grade before I was able to believe in that system and
move on and be a part of the Western education system.
The written system with documentation was a form of validation of authorities and responsibilities. For example,
when you move from one grade to another, report cards are very important and allow you into the next classroom.
When we are looking at comparing education practices and learning methods, there is definitely an oral method and
a written method, but also we talk about paralleling. If we can culturally interpret practices into one another, then we
come out with common factors that allow us to move ahead with education.
For example, in our community we have the Niipoomaakiiks Society; it is a youth society around eight years old.
They were introduced to our oral methods of education. These youth took ownership of their education once they
understood our language and our methods of learning. Once they took ownership of their education, they were able to
bring in Western topics of education like math, language, arts and so on.
In our community, we are working with traditional practices to culturally interpret Western practices so that they
can be a part of the Alberta practices.
Senator Stewart Olsen: I notice that your schools are federally funded and run federally. Do you find that system is a
good way to go? That is quite different from schools run by the bands on the reserves. Is that something you like or
something you would like to change?
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: I would like you to understand why we are in that situation. In the 1970s — I do not know if
you are familiar with the term "devolution" — Indian Affairs wanted to devolve education to First Nations
communities. In our community, we looked at it at least three times. We were not prepared to take over a poorly
funded, poorly operating education system that did not provide enough money.
I think you probably are aware that the limited amount of money that goes to First Nations schools is such that
communities have to decide whether they will pay teachers similar to the province and take away money from
programs, or keep programs well funded and not pay the teachers. That situation should not be happening. Whichever
way you go it causes significant difficulties.
Because the federal government was prepared to work with the Public Service Alliance Commission, and pay
teachers a reasonable amount of money to do the work, we did not have to take away from the programs. However,
the money that they were going to provide was not adequate to do both. There are many parts of education that could
never be funded under the present funding formula.
The simple answer is no. We do not like it, but we will not go forward until we have either a treaty-based or some
kind of clear agreement that our education will be well funded and indexed. Then we will not have to feel like we are
begging for the education of our children.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Chief Crowshoe, you said that your oral tradition helped children to understand what the
Western educational system was all about. Do you think that starting right off the bat at the elementary school level —
grades 1 to 6 — with a heavy emphasis on your own traditional teachings will help children as they move forward into
secondary education and post-secondary education?
Chief Crowshoe: The emphasis is on the delivery of education, namely, the teaching methods. It is important that
those things be taught at an early age. For example, when we speak about the oral concept of teaching practices, we are
looking at language and discourse. The venue is the school or classroom, action is your capability or your report card
and song allows you into the classroom. If you make those parallels at an early age, children culturally interpreting
from a traditional venue to a Western venue, the child comes to understand both worlds and respects the practices in
We have had our most success with children being able to accept both education practices and taking ownership of
education. For example, when you teach language, the child takes ownership of the language and uses it at home, but if
at school they learn language through Western practices, so they can get a good mark, they do not speak the language
off the school grounds. They do not take ownership of the language.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Do the federally run schools have this cultural component?
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: In my community and at Tyendinaga, the other federally run schools, the staff, in working
with the people of the community, have developed a major cultural component and the second language is taught. We
also have an immersion program. It is thanks to the staff that we have that system.
Senator Poirier: Ms. VanEvery-Albert, you explained the reasons why you decided to stay with the federal system.
Can you explain to me the main difference between the federally run schools in the First Nations and the schools run
by the bands?
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: In the federally run school and, in fact, in First Nations schools in Ontario, we are charged by
Indian Affairs to deliver the provincial curriculum. First Nations schools have a better opportunity to add more of the
history, culture and language than do federal schools.
The other thing is that we depend on what the federal schools provide in terms of funding for specific activities. If
there is not enough money one year, we might decide not to replenish the library. Another year, we might decide to
replenish our computers. There is never enough. I do not think there is ever enough money in the First Nations-run
The main point is that it is important that the community have control of what their children learn in their schools.
Senator Poirier: Under the federally run system that you are under, does your community have a word to say about
teachers being hired or the curriculum that will be taught? Do you have any input into it at all?
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: No, only at times when we barge in and there have been times when we have worked
somewhat closely with the federal people and other times when we have been excluded. However, we do have a good
working relationship with the staff who are mostly Six Nations people, so it is more of an informal relationship than a
Senator Poirier: Do you know what the success rate is in schools run by the bands of the First Nations compared to
the federal ones? I know when they are run by the band they have more say about what is being taught, who they are
hiring and the curriculum. Do you know whether there is a difference in the success levels of the two systems?
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: I do not think there is a significant difference in the success levels. At the same time, there are
probably different reasons for that success.
One of the real difficulties is that bands cannot afford to pay salaries that are similar to provincial salaries. They
often pay up to 30 per cent lower. It does not happen in my community, but it happens in other First Nations
Other First Nations communities do not have enough of their own teachers, so they hire non-Native teachers. Once
those teachers get a little experience they go off into a local district school board. Therefore, there is little continuity in
the program from that perspective for other First Nations communities.
In my community, we do not have that issue because we have mostly all of our own teachers. About 94 per cent of the
staff is Six Nations teachers. However, we are caught because our people have no input or very little input as to what is
taught. We have a second language program, which is limited, because we do not have enough money to make it a good
program. I could go on and on.
Senator Poirier: Under your system, are the teachers still paid 30 per cent lower than in the other systems?
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: It is not 30 per cent. They are slightly lower, but it is not 30 per cent in the federal school.
However, the provincial schools still struggle.
Senator Poirier: In addition to your five federally-funded primary schools, which are administered by INAC, you
also have several private schools.
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: Yes.
Senator Poirier: I know some of these private schools get a small portion of funding and some depend totally on
private donations. Can you explain the difference in the level of teaching at those schools? Because they are private, do
they hire their own teachers and supply their own curriculum, or are they following the same system that you follow?
How does that work exactly?
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: The largest private school we have is an immersion school. They moved away from the federal
system because they felt constrained. Going back to what my colleague has said about methodologies for teaching they
felt constrained in a variety of ways by the federal system, so they became private so they could offer the program from
a more cultural perspective.
They wanted 100 per cent immersion, and we were not able to provide that in the federal system, because the
students were going to a federal school with English-speaking students. That is one instance.
Another instance is church schools. We have one church school, and they have decided to be private and on their
own for the same reasons.
Senator Poirier: What percentage of students go to private schools? Do the parents contribute a fee or a cost for
their children to go there?
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: In the immersion school, students get the same tuition as would be paid for any student who
attends a provincial school. The number of students in these programs is quite small. I do not have the numbers for the
immersion school this year, but in the past, they have had perhaps 40 students. Many years ago, they had a high of
probably 100 students, but they are now lower. There are yet other schools that are wholly funded by the parents.
These are immersion schools as well.
The Chair: For clarification, Ms. VanEvery-Albert, you said that the tuition is equivalent to what the provinces put
forward per student.
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: Yes, but it comes from federal funding.
The Chair: It comes from the federal government?
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: Yes.
The Chair: What is the disparity in federal funding versus the non-First Nations children that go to school in the
Province of Ontario?
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: It really depends on how you look at it, but it could be 30 per cent less. If you look very
carefully, and I have looked very carefully, it is probably half of what they would get in the province. Be aware too that
there are many ways of looking at that issue.
Senator Campbell: I am a little confused. I am trying to figure out the difference cost-wise between federal funding,
provincial funding and band funding. There is obviously a disparity there, and I am trying to figure out exactly what
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: I will explain it to you. Federal funding is money that goes to First Nations communities in
order to run their education system. That comes directly from the Department of Indian Affairs because schools on
reserves are federal schools. There is no provincial funding to reserves for their schools. They are two very separate
I would like to share with you the band-operated funding formula information.
Senator Campbell: Yes.
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: In 1988, Indian and Northern Affairs developed a band-operated funding formula, and it was
similar to what is given out in Ontario. It lays out how much money is reserved for teachers, how much money is
reserved for library books and all the different aspects, transportation and so on.
That band-operated funding formula came out in 1988 in draft form. Ladies and gentlemen, it is still in draft form.
It has not changed since 1988, and it does not meet our needs. Since 1988, and certainly since 1998 when there was a
major change to education in Ontario, much more money has been provided to Ontario schools, up to 25 per cent
more, because a lot of new things happened in the province. While those things were happening, Indian Affairs capped
the band-operated funding formula at 2 per cent.
In effect, we have only grown 2 per cent in dollar value, but our dollar since that time has been significantly
devalued. What we would get for the same amount of money back in 1996 is not the same today. We are underfunded,
and we continue to go backwards. Basically that is it.
Senator Campbell: I am actually from Brantford. Let us say I am First Nations and I am going to BCI, North Park
or whatever; who pays for that?
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
Senator Campbell: How much do they pay?
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: This year, it will be right around $10,000.
Senator Campbell: I am from Brantford now, not Aboriginal, and I go to high school; what does the province pay
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: The province probably pays a very similar amount, given of course that there are many ways
to look at this funding, but it is probably similar.
Senator Campbell: At the end of the day, it sounds like the issue comes down to the ability to put forward your
traditional languages and your traditional values versus what is taught in school in Brantford.
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: I would like to make this clear: What Indian Affairs pays in tuition to a local district school
board is significantly higher than what it pays for students on the reserve.
Senator Campbell: That is what I wanted to know. Why is that?
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: Well, you know what, if I had the answer to that, then things might be better today. That is a
question you will have to ask the Minister of Indian Affairs.
Senator Campbell: Is makes no sense to me.
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: During my whole teaching career, it has not made any sense to me either.
Here is another important point: Not only have we gone backwards in terms of money because of the 2 per cent cap,
but as you will note from the 2000 and 2004 Auditor General's report, it will take more than 25 years at the same
funding level to bring our students academically forward. We do not have 25 years to wait. We need to move now, but
it is very difficult to move when we just plain do not have the money, especially with respect to special education.
Many students in our community have not been tested because there is not enough money. We cannot provide the
needed services. The lack of money has stymied us in many ways.
Senator Raine: I think we are beginning to understand the challenges you are facing running the schools and why
you would stay with the federally funded schools because if you tried to take over your own schools you would be
dealing with 30 per cent less money.
To be fair though, when the federal government provides money to band-run schools, there is a per-student tuition
portion as well as funding for capital and special projects. It still probably does not come up to the same totals.
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: I will explain that. I sat on the Grand Erie District School Board for nine years, so I closely
followed how education was funded. Provincially you are funded by the number of students you have, and they have
very large boards with thousands of students, and they also get extra funding for extra projects, and they are allowed to
put money away for capital expenditures that will come up.
The federal government has an education pot with a finite number of dollars, and that is divided up by region
among all First Nations communities in the country. Then, in Ontario, there is a finite amount of money in the pot that
is divided among First Nations communities. If you go down to the program level, say for special education, a finite
amount of money is divided up. It does not meet real needs. It is only a divisional exercise. That is one the biggest
problems that we have, and over the years it has compounded and become very complex. Therefore, we are struggling.
What do we do when there is absolutely no opportunity to catch up?
Does that make sense to you?
Senator Raine: Yes. I think it is fair to say in the public system or in provincial government budgets there is a finite
pot as well, but obviously it matches a little closer with the job to be done.
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: I will tell you the other thing that happens that I have found difficult.
As you know, in the Ontario provincial government a number of special programs come out every year, regularly,
that target some difficult situations the schools might be facing. It might be safety in the schools; it might be reading; it
might be libraries and so on. A special pot is created. Everybody has an opportunity to take part of that money and put
it into the board and into the schools, and that is a good thing.
Those similar kinds of programs are not necessarily followed by Indian Affairs. For instance, a special reading
program might come out from the Ministry of Education that we are expected to implement at Six Nations, but we are
not given any money.
Because I sat at the district school board table for many years, I know how that process works. It might be a three-year program, but often in the federal schools, and certainly in band-operated schools, Indian Affairs does not follow
that same process. Again, we are behind.
Senator Raine: If money was not an object, lack of financing was not an issue, how would you structure? If the
financing came from the federal government to the First Nations, how would you structure the organization to run
First Nations schools for First Nations students?
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: First of all we would have our own board. Indian Affairs does not provide any significant
amount for governance at the First Nations community level. Some First Nations communities have a board, but there
is very little training and virtually no money to run board meetings. There is no place to run a board meeting. Board
members do not have opportunities to take training somewhere, because there is a lot to learn about boards. Certainly
the provincial schools have that opportunity. That is one part, the governance part.
The second part would be staff. We do not have an opportunity for real quality and ongoing professional development
for our staff. I would not say there is no money. There is some money, but we do not have the kind of money to send
people to a conference at a cost of $3,000 because we might only have $10,000 for professional development. Therefore,
we do the best we can with what we have. We need professional development for our staff, professional development for
the principals and certainly for specialist teachers. We need lots of ongoing professional development. It just cannot
happen in one year and then not continue over time.
There is special education. We need to catch up and have all of the children tested who need testing. We need special
education rooms where we can work with the student as needed. For children who are hearing impaired or speech
impaired or vision impaired, we need enough money to send them to relevant programs or to develop our own
programs. Sometimes we might use up a significant part of our special education budget on one child. That has
happened in the past.
I could go on. We need good libraries. We need computers. Our computers are old, and our community, which is in
the middle of Southern Ontario, does not have high-speed Internet access. We have to struggle along with less than
that, and so our kids, in the middle of the most populous province in Canada, do not have access to the world like
perhaps your children do. We are very much at a disadvantage. We are on the wrong side of the digital divide.
Those are just some of the issues that we would attend to if we had the money.
Senator Raine: Finally, under the existing structure, do you feel that the federally funded education being delivered
at the elementary and middle school levels is getting your students into high school, or do you think you could do a
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: I give all the kudos to the teachers at Six Nations because they do a wonderful job under very
difficult circumstances. Were it not for them, we probably would not have nearly as many students going off to high
We could and should send more, but the problem is keeping them in school once they get there. When you send a
student off to high school and they are not wholly ready, you are asking for difficulty and we do have difficulty. Some
years, we are losing up to 25 per cent of our high school students by the time they get to grade 12, and I think we could
The Chair: I want to throw a quick question at Chief Crowshoe. The Government of Canada, the Province of
Alberta and the heads of the various treaties 6, 7 and 8 signed a memorandum of understanding in regard to
establishing a tripartite type of agreement. This is one of the parts of our study that we are trying to focus on.
You are from Treaty 7, are you, sir?
Mr. Crowshoe: Right.
The Chair: Have you any reaction to that agreement? Do you see that as a possible improvement in relations with
various governments to improve the funding for Alberta First Nations children?
Mr. Crowshoe: In February 2010, this tripartite agreement was signed between the government and the treaties 6, 7
and 8. When we are looking at the common understanding for disagreement between the chiefs and Alberta and
Canada, we are looking at how we can recognize First Nation education as part of our tradition. I am hoping that it
will help us at least work with some of the funding so that we can improve the funding going to our communities.
For example, we run a band-owned education system, and all of the problems my colleague talked about are
basically the same problems we face. When we talk about capacity for governance in our education board, there is
really no capacity. We need training and we need to develop that capacity. If we do not develop that capacity in
governance, we will continue to struggle.
With regard to the funding that my colleague talked about, there is no difference; funding is pretty well the same.
We are struggling with the dollars we get to run our band schools. Again, when we talk about tuition, there is that
difference in tuition that is paid for off reserve and on-reserve schooling. We are hoping to improve the funding for
tuitions with this tripartite agreement.
I talk about tradition and culture being part of our education. We do have input into education delivery with culture
and language, but we struggle with the interpretation of the provincial education standards. Those standards have not
been culturally interpreted. For example, when we talk about our learning methods, they are not culturally interpreted
so in school they are not allowed.
When my colleague talked about private schools, some parents in the community want to develop their own private
school and pay for some of that education because the quality that is being delivered and the confidence of the students
is greater than what is happening at the school.
Some of our students go off reserve, and they tend to be put into special education. A lot of the younger students are
being put into programs at school, and they lose respect for the school. A lot of times they are put into special
programs that include the delivery of Ritalin or other drugs by the counsellors.
However, when we look at our traditional education, those children are caught between an oral culture and a
written culture. We are still strong in our language and culture in our community, and many students that go off
reserve get diagnosed as having a short attention span, which is dealt with through drugs and special education.
However, when they come back to the community and an oral teaching method, the children do not need prescribed
medication, and they learn a lot better at the reserve level. You are spending more special education dollars at the off-reserve schools than on reserve.
We run our band education. We run it with our school board, but when we talk about governance, we need to
develop capacity in our governance. We need a training program for our board of governors to understand what we
need in order to deliver the education we need.
Senator Sibbeston: This Senate committee is tasked with dealing with a question of the difference, the big disparity
— you mentioned the 25 years and I think it is up to a 28-year difference — between First Nations and regular
I am wondering if it is a bit of a myth or kind of a false goal that we think we should all be the same, under the same
standard. I come from the North where there are little communities that are rural, and a grade 10 education is very good.
My uncle, back in the 1930s and 1940s, had grade 3 and that was a great deal of education. He made his way in the world
very successfully with that.
You mentioned the oral tradition and the emphasis on culture and so forth. It is such a different system and such a
different society that I wonder whether we could ever be the same; it is like comparing apples and oranges. Are you
able to say something about that topic? Is it a myth that Canadians think that First Nations should be on the same
level as everybody else?
Ms. VanEvery-Albert: I am glad that you asked that question. I would like to share our view from my perspective
and certainly the perspective of my community.
I want to be absolutely clear: We are Haudenosaunee people; we are not Canadians. We do not want to be just like
Canadians, but we do want to be friends. We want to be able to speak their language, but we want to be able to speak
our own. We like their music but we like our music too, and we want you to understand about our music, our language
and our culture.
You need to know who we are as much as we need to know who you are. Our schools teach us everything about who
you are, but your schools do not teach about who we are.
We are the first people of this country. We live only here and our languages live only here. When they are gone, they
are gone from the face of this earth forever. That is a tragedy. We cannot and we will not allow that.
At the same time, we live in this country and we need a good academic education. We travel in two worlds. In the
paper I gave you, you can see we have Guswhenta, the two-row wampum. It is a white belt and it has two rows in it.
For us, that means we will be friends with you but you travel in your boat on the river and we travel in our boat on the
river. We do not get in your boat; you do not get in our boat. We do not try to steer each other. That is what our
understandings of who we are go to.
It becomes very important for us that we not only have your education and an understanding of who you are but
that we are also very strong in our language, our culture and the way we do business. That is really what we are after.
We need that, we want it and we shall have it. We have a right to it, because we are the first people of this country.
Up until now, in my view, we have been denied or sent little pieces of money to try to make that happen. From our
perspective at Six Nations, in particular, we do not wish to be wards of the government or a number on Indian Affairs'
band list. We wish to be Haudenosaunee people in this country on our own, living our lives with our friends, you.
Senator Hubley: Thank you for your presentations this morning. Hello to your mom, as well. It is nice to have her
Our committee has recently travelled to the West. One thing we heard often from our presenters was treaty rights, as
far as education goes. Based on how your last comment, you feel we should all be looking at that model for treaty
rights. I am trying to understand it correctly.
Another issue is the restrictions to your curriculum because of funding and because of the type of school you have
described. Just how restrictive is that? We have seen different rituals brought into some of the schools — smudging
ceremonies, certainly drumming and singing and customs of greeting — and they are very much part of some schools. I
wonder if those rituals are some of the things you might be able to do.
I have one last question. Do your schools attend provincial teachers' conferences and teachers' seminars? You did
touch on professional development days. We are all familiar with those, where the schools close and the teachers gather
to discuss issues that pertain to their province or to their school.
The Chair: Would you keep your responses as tight as possible, please?
Mr. Crowshoe: With regard to our band-run schools and traditional models of education, one of the things we are
focusing on is how to culturally interpret education practices and teaching models. For example, when we are talking
about governance, how do we culturally interpret from Western culture to the oral culture practical systems of
discussions and decision making?
In one case you might use a gavel. In the other case you might use the smudge. However, when we are looking at
paralleling or cultural interpretation, we are saying in both cases they are a start, or an order to start a process. We
have to understand that that starting process represents both sides. If we can move ahead using those practices, then we
have a belief system from our traditional membership and our Western education membership in our communities,
and the kind of goals that we need to achieve, especially in governance for education.
When we are talking about teaching methodology in education, we are also saying the youth have to be taught those
basic principles of practice and culturally interpret them into Western practices.
We could talk about content of education and cultural content. The curriculums are different but we are looking at
how we culturally interpret practice, not only in governance but at the education level.
Senator Raine: My questions are for Chief Crowshoe. Last spring, we heard from witnesses about how to value
cultural First Nations education. We also heard about what you learn that is not taught in regular schools: learning
how to live on the land and learning how to practice your traditional cultural practices. There is no evaluation and no
sort of status given to that traditional knowledge that you learn.
Do you see a way of evaluating that knowledge in your schools, officially? In other words, maybe your elders could
say, "These children have succeeded and this is the knowledge that they have." They could then receive credit for that.
Mr. Crowshoe: When we talk about cultural interpretation of practice, part of the practice is talking about the
concept of validation. How do we validate information? How do we validate, say, teachers or people, and how do we
validate a learning classroom?
The concept of validation has to be culturally interpreted. Whether we validate the stuff you learn from living off the
land or the stuff you learn that relates to math, science and languages, that validation has to be culturally interpreted
so that we can use those practices to deliver learning to our students, our youth.
We have elders. However, the elders in our case are validated teachers. Who validates elders? We validate, in our
culture, but when it comes to Western educators coming to our community, the validation of elders is totally out of our
hands. When our elders are invited, then there is a cultural conflict in our community as to who can be an elder.
We need to define and culturally interpret the validation system from a First Nations perspective before we can
validate information, people and education.
The Chair: I thank you very much. We have heard two proud First Nations people who are educators themselves.
We thank you for the excellent presentation and excellent answers to some complex questions we are trying to deal
with in the hope of assisting all of us in this country.
Chief Crowshoe, do you have something for us?
Mr. Crowshoe: This is just for the record.
The Chair: It will become part of the record, Chief.
We now have our second panel before us. Many of you are already acquainted with the work of the First Nations
Education Steering Committee, more commonly known as FNESC, owing to our fact-finding mission to British
Columbia. I am sure I speak for all senators at the table when I say it is a great pleasure for us to be able to receive
FNESC in Ottawa, as represented by Nathan Matthew, Christa Williams and Deborah Jeffrey.
I believe you have a presentation, Mr. Matthew.
Nathan Matthew, Negotiator, British Columbia First Nations Education Jurisdiction Negotiations, First Nations
Education Steering Committee: We will share the presentation.
The Chair: Would you describe the roles you play in your organization, please.
Mr. Matthew: Good morning, it is good to be here to talk about First Nations education, particularly what we are
doing in British Columbia. My name is Nathan Matthew; I am a Secwepemc, a Shuswap person. I am from the
Simpcw First Nation. I have 35 years' experience dealing with First Nations education issues. In British Columbia, I
am a senior adviser to the organizations involved in First Nations education. I am also a negotiator for jurisdiction.
We also have Christa Williams here.
Christa Williams, Negotiator, British Columbia First Nations Education Jurisdiction Negotiations, First Nations
Education Steering Committee: My name is Christa Williams. I am from the Nlaka'pamux in the interior of British
Columbia. I am the former executive director with FNESC for 15 years. Over the last two years I have maintained the
position and role of negotiator on jurisdiction, as well as adviser on other matters as necessary.
Deborah Jeffrey, Acting Executive Director, British Columbia First Nations Education Jurisdiction Negotiations, First
Nations Education Steering Committee: My name is Deborah Jeffrey. I am the acting executive director for FNESC. I
have been involved in education for more years than I would care to admit. I have been a classroom teacher for about
15 years and an administrator, and I now practice law part time as well.
I would like to acknowledge formally the traditional territory of the First Nations that we are on and thank them for
allowing us to give the presentation today.
Mr. Matthew: We are here representing the education interest of the First Nations in British Columbia, both generally
and in the First Nations schools. In British Columbia, we have been responsible for the education of our children in our
schools for many years now. It is our intent, through our organizations, FNESC and the First Nations Schools
Association, to exercise effectively the right that we have to be self-governing in the area of education in a way that is
respectful of our language and culture.
We have a package, but I understand it is a no-go because it is not translated. Is that right?
The Chair: That is correct. That is a policy of Senate committees. It must be in both official languages to be circulated.
We will receive it and table it. We will have it translated, and it will become part of the record.
Mr. Matthew: I would just note we received the invitation to appear here last Friday morning, so we did not have a
chance to give you the information in time to have it translated; it was something that was out of our control. It is
unfortunate that you do not have that information. We took care to prepare a chart as well as a briefing note.
Our organizations, through FNESC, have been working together for the past 15 to 20 years with respect to First
Nations education in the province, particularly in the area of First Nations schools. As well, we have been negotiating
agreements with the provincial government with regard to our kids in public schools.
We have considerable capacity. We manage in excess of $30 million a year through our organizations. We employ
over 30 staff members, and we do that effectively. We manage within a 7.5 per cent administrative cost. We have
negotiated terms and conditions of First Nations education jurisdiction, grades K to 12, on our reserves. We have
supported and developed Bill C-34 with the federal government Bill 46 with the provincial government, and they
provide legislative recognition of our right to manage and control education in our communities from grades K to 12.
With respect to that, we are currently in the latter stages of negotiation of jurisdiction, but we are being held up by
cabinet because sufficient funds have not been allocated to date to support that initiative.
The question we have to the federal government is: When will the federal government support First Nations to
become self-governing in the area of education? That is why we are here, and to answer questions you might have with
respect to our readiness to take further steps in gaining more control of our education in our communities. Ms.
Williams has more details to present.
Ms. Williams: I will be alluding to this beautiful diagram. When you get it, you might be disappointed. At the
moment, it is well put together.
We want to talk about the system that we have put into place in British Columbia, and we are starting to refer to it
as a system. In 1997, the First Nations Schools Association, a collective of First Nations schools across British
Columbia, put together a document called Reaching for Success: Elements of a Quality Education System. That
document outlined all of the pieces needed to have an effective education system. Since 1997, the schools have been
working collectively to tackle each element and put into place some of the elements that would result in a quality
All of this is founded on the values and principles within our language and culture, and is our frame of reference
underpinning all of the work that has been done. We mention that separately because it is not funded adequately
within our communities. There is an allocation to people in varying amounts. I think it is $116 per FTE, but it is not
enough to tackle a whole language and culture program.
The first thing we tackled in putting our education system together was the development of First Nations standards
for education. We looked at the provincial standards and said we would use those standards as a minimum, and from
there tailor them to meet the needs of the students in our community. We started looking at how the province at that
time assessed or evaluated schools. We took that process out to our community and asked,
"Does this work for you, or
are there ways we need to tailor it?" The communities said, "We would like to
tailor it to meet our needs, but we do not want to lose the rigour there within
the provincial system originally."
We have been engaged in school assessments, which then evolved into a school certification process. It is a fairly
intense process that looks at curriculum, governance, the environment of the schools, student satisfaction and parent
satisfaction. Because of that intensity and the energy put into engaging the community, schools wanted some
recognition. That is why it evolved into this certification system. If you go into First Nations schools that have been
through that process, there will be a plaque at the front of the school saying they have been certified and giving the year
in which that happened.
Schools that have difficulties or areas that require improvement receive a progress report. With that report, they also
get assistance in developing a school growth plan.
In the past, we have had no resources to allocate to the school growth plans. The schools have had to absorb the
expenses and shuffle dollars to address some of those opportunities for growth. With the implementation of the First
Nation Student Success Program, FNSSP, by INAC two years ago, there are resources now that can be allocated to
support the implementation of the school growth plans.
The next level that we started to look at was where we would make the greatest difference. The resounding answer we
heard from First Nations schools in B.C. was at the classroom level, with the quality of instructional support. If you have
teachers who are effective in providing learning opportunities, students are more likely to learn, if they have the
opportunities being presented.
We started to focus on developing the First Nations schools teacher certification process. Again, we looked to the
province for the minimum standards, so we looked to the British Columbia College of Teachers, the regulatory body
for certifying and decertifying teachers. We joined in a partnership with them. We took their standards, although they
have not been implemented by the province as a result of the relationship with the union. They have been set aside. We
dusted them off and said, "We quite like these standards." They determine academic rigour and approach to
instruction, so we took those to First Nations schools and First Nations school teachers and asked,
"What do you
think?" We were able to collapse some of them. What was funny is when we took it back to First Nations at a
conference, they asked, "How come we only have eight and there are 13?" We took another year to diagram and show
that we had just collapsed the standards but had not lost any. Our communities were very concerned that we not lower
Then we also added to those standards in terms of cultural competency, such as teachers having an understanding
and appreciation of the diversity of First Nations in B.C. and the role that language and culture should play in the
education system. We implemented our standards last year, after a two-year pilot project.
What is awesome is that our teachers are embracing this process, although it is an evaluative process. The teachers are
seeing it as an opportunity for professional growth because they end up with a professional growth plan that will identify
areas and opportunities for them to become even more effective teachers.
This year, we are looking at the development of standards for principals, so we are looking at teacher supervision.
How can principals better support teachers to become more effective? That is under way in our first year of activity at
We also engage in some provincial level activities. We administer the special education funding that INAC provides
for First Nations schools in B.C. All of those resources flow through FNESC. The schools have agreed to that because
they like the idea of some provincial level support that creates economies of scale.
For example, we hire a number of speech and language pathologists who then oversee speech and language
pathologist assistants that work in our communities. That category of speech and language pathologist assistants did
not exist before we looked at what was going on. We knew that there were not enough speech and language
pathologists to go out to all of these different places. Therefore, we hired collectively 5 or 6 SLPs to became mentors to
speech and language pathologist assistants.
We got into a bit of trouble with the Canadian Association of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists in
that they were worried we were watering down their profession. Instead, they worked with us to create that designation
because they could see the value of training people from our community to deliver the prescriptions. The SLPs still did
the assessments, the identification and the prescription, but community people who live in the community and will stay
in the community are now working with the kids on a regular basis. That is the type of provincial level activity that we
involve ourselves in.
We also serve as a communications function. You heard in the previous presentation questions regarding provincial
conferences. We will have our sixteenth annual First Nations education conference in late November, and that will
bring together 750 to 800 participants from across B.C., both from the public system and First Nations school systems.
We have an opportunity to come together to learn from each other, to build on our successes, to discuss challenges and
figure out solutions to those challenges, as well as create networking opportunities that we have found to be valuable.
Separate from that, we have the First Nations Schools Association conference, which is a First Nations schools
specific. It takes place in April of each year, and it brings together teachers, parents and people who sit on our school
boards, et cetera, to talk about First Nations schools initiatives and ongoing activities.
Through all of this, First Nations schools have come to embrace data. When we started our evaluation process,
there was no way to document year-over-year progress. Therefore, schools started to say,
"We need to collect some
data." About eight or nine years ago, the schools, prior to any intervention from Indian Affairs or anyone else said,
"We need to collect our own data. We need to be able to document our progress.
We need to document the investments we are making and whether those investments
are actually making a difference."
This year we are engaged in the process of putting the pieces into one data system. We are now looking at teacher
data, student level data, satisfaction surveys from teachers and parents and students and putting it all together, and
that will serve as a way to inform activities at the provincial level to identify common challenges. Are there ways to
work together collectively to support First Nations schools?
However, we are quite excited about the data and we are a bit of a different in that regard. Part of the driving force
behind bringing this into our own schools comes from a lobbying effort in 1998 to get the provincial government to
publish the data of how our students were doing in the public schools. In 1998, they published the first How Are We
Doing? report which talks about how our students are doing in the public schools. Now we also have a report on how
we are doing in First Nations schools, and we are finding that a useful exercise.
With the passage of the pieces of legislation that Mr. Matthew mentioned, we are adding to our system under our
jurisdiction some regulatory functions, the capacity to certify and decertify schools, the capacity to certify and decertify
teachers, which is a fairly big challenge. We are excited about taking it on, but we recognize there will be many interesting
developments along the way.
However, it builds on what is already in place. It is not creating something new but just extending to having that
regulatory function. We are proud of our system. It is working well, and when there are challenges, the First Nations
schools come together and come up with solutions. Having the collective has been awesome, but I am quite biased
because I have been there since 1993.
Now Ms. Jeffrey will speak to language and culture.
The Chair: We are running tight on time, but I realize you want to get your message out, so do the best you can.
Mr. Matthew: We were told not to talk too fast because of translation.
The Chair: That is true. You are darned if you do and darned if you do not.
Ms. Jeffrey: I will try to make it brief given the time constraints. The language issue is core to Canada's identity and
core to us as First Nations people and the need for us as First Nation people to have linguistically and culturally
competent citizens so our cultures are sustained now and into the future. A critical component for our schools is
language and culture programs. We need the funding to ensure that we have integrated curriculum across the grades so
that quality programs can enhance program and language revitalization at the community level.
The importance of language revitalization is widely recognized. You have seen, I am sure, a number of reports
speaking to the issue of language preservation in First Nation communities. There was a recent report put out by the
B.C. government, and now we are in the process of developing a business case for language and culture funding in our
schools to provide clear evidence of the need for language and culture programs. It will include a lit review; it will look
at costs. We want to ensure that it is well-documented and we provide the evidence needed to move forward with our
request for funding for language and culture programs.
Our First Nations languages are hugely important to our schools. We have done a number of research projects with
the schools and other consultants that lay out some of the needs, and the number one need of course is the number of
qualified First Nations language teachers. Right now we are engaged in conducting research with the University of
Victoria to look at First Nations language program options. We are looking at professional development opportunities
to see how to do that strategically and cost effectively for First Nations language teachers. Regardless of the language,
academic benefits of language learning are well documented in terms of promoting self-esteem, personal development
and a positive sense of identity that leads to confidence, and confidence is one of the foundational pieces in terms of
moving forward as a learner.
First Nations well recognize the interconnectedness of our goals for language and educational achievement in terms
of the socio-economic improvements. Resources are immediately needed to ensure First Nations languages and
education programs are supported in effective, meaningful ways. As Ms. Williams described, we have an integrated
comprehensive education system that has been developing at the community level through our schools in a very
carefully planned and sustained way, and in order to do that more effectively, we of course need our language and
culture funding to move forward.
There is a significant discrepancy between the levels of support available to First Nations schools in comparison to
provincial schools, and my question to you is: Why are our children valued less than other Canadians? Why are we not
afforded the same opportunity in terms of education programming needs? That is a question that has long gone
unanswered, and I am hoping through this process that we will come to a collective answer and address the issue long
Mr. Matthew: Our primary source of funding is the federal government. There is an obligation on the federal
government to deal with these issues. The funding we receive is not comprehensive; it is not adequate; it is not
sustainable and it is not secure. That is a key issue that we would like addressed. We are prevented from fully
developing the capacity that we must have in order to provide appropriate education for our kids, and without
adequate resourcing, we will continue to be frustrated. That is one of the key issues facing not only First Nations in
B.C. but First Nations across the country.
The Chair: You have signed a reciprocal agreement with the Province of British Columbia in regard to tuition
funding. Can you explain that, please?
Mr. Matthew: Yes. Through the negotiations for jurisdiction, First Nations pay a tuition fee to the public school
system for the education of our kids that go from on-reserve to public schools, and over time, we have been educating off-reserve kids in our schools. It has gone from having no payment at all for tuition of those kids to a percentage dependent
on whether we were classified as an independent school under the B.C. Independent School Act. We negotiated the
payment of tuition in a reciprocal fashion in the same way that we paid tuition for our kids going to public schools. The
public school system now pays for off-reserve children attending our schools on the same basis and at the same rate as we
pay. It is a reciprocal arrangement. It is ironic in that the province recognizes the quality of education we provide for the
purpose of paying that full tuition, and it does not seem that the federal government recognizes the quality of education
that we provide our children in B.C., so it is another level of frustration.
Senator Stewart Olsen: Thank you for your presentation. It is a lot to get my mind around because it is so different
from most other provinces.
Are you saying that all of the federal funding for education from INAC streams into your organization and you
then disburse the fees?
Mr. Matthew: No, most of the funding goes to First Nations communities, band councils, to provide education
services and to provide payment of tuition for our kids going to public schools. We handle specific areas of funding:
special education, the capacity areas that we have described in terms of providing services to our communities. There is
a lot of programming that we hold in common.
The funding for new paths comes to FNESC and the schools association, and we distribute those resources.
However, we do not handle post-secondary education funding and we do not handle tuition and dollars that First
Nation communities use to provide services from that side.
Senator Stewart Olsen: I am going through your financial report. I see you do get a significant amount of funding
from the federal government. You are saying that on top of that amount, the federal government also funds individual
bands for education. It is a lot of money.
I kind of like the idea of it all coming through your organization but I recognize the political differences. This is a lot
of money we are talking about here; so when you say there is not adequate funding, I certainly understand that and I
hear that, but there is only so much money in the federal pot right now.
I am trying to balance all of the requests. I hear your requests, but I wanted to just put that forward.
Ms. Williams: In British Columbia, we have 130 First Nation schools with a large number of students. When you
put all the money in one pile, it does look like a lot of money. However, having administered that money for a long
time, in my head it was little pieces. It is this much money to get library books or this much money for evaluation,
which used to be something like $148 for each student. When we break it down to that level and you start adding up
costs for evaluation or language and culture programming, the amount per pupil is significantly less than the same
student would get in the provincial system.
The number should actually be much larger, but you do need to break it down and filter it down to look at the
different pieces. Trust me, we have done that over and over again in any way we can. We have even worked with the
provincial government to say this is our methodology for determining that comparison, and then they have worked
with us and signed off on it, saying your methodology is sound and we agree with the disparity you have found.
Senator Stewart Olsen: We are struggling, as a committee, to get our heads around that.
Senator Sibbeston: You appear to be well organized. Are you seeing progress regarding the disparity between First
Nations and other Canadians? Through your work and your efforts, have you seen some progress and an increase in
results with regard to First Nations students in the last few years?
Mr. Matthew: Yes, we have. We are beginning to track results on the First Nations school side now. We do not have
the same kind of data that the provincial schools have, but the levels of participation, attendance and academic success
have been improving in the public school system for First Nation learners over the last number of years. I guess it is
attributable to the efforts of FNESC and the schools association, but I am sure the province would say they are doing
some good things too.
We are putting our efforts into increasing the achievement of our students and the completion of at least secondary
education for First Nation learners within the province. We want to maintain a tracking system for our students within
our system on the First Nations school side. We are just in the process. We have a lot of information but not as specific
as we would want. There is limited resourcing for tracking on our side as well.
Senator Sibbeston: Do you consider that your organization and the initiatives you are undertaking with regard to
First Nations education are the way to go to get First Nations education eventually on the same basis and level as other
Canadians? Also, what is your rapport and involvement with the provincial education system?
Mr. Matthew: Absolutely; we are working to gather our resources and develop collective capacity. That is what our
organizations are about. We handle the issues that are difficult to handle with individual schools. For example, for
special education, we have a website; we have a special education hotline for classroom teachers; we have the teacher
certification process, and we handle technology together. We have regional specialists whom we, along with the
schools, hire to provide those kinds of services that would be very difficult for individual schools to handle.
By working together with the province, we have been able to provide a lot more effectiveness. We have
memorandums of understanding to work together, evidenced by the reciprocal tuition. We develop curriculum
together with the province — First People's English 10, 11 and 12 — and we are working on a First Nations math
We believe that we are doing as much as we can together, while respecting the right of individual First Nations to
control and govern their own schools.
Ms. Williams: Could I clarify one thing? What we have described works for us because there are so many First
Nations in B.C. Other regions may choose a different approach, but for B.C. we are fully confident in what we are up
Mr. Matthew: We have 130 schools in B.C. and we are working off the same page in terms of being strategic and
responsive to the needs of those schools. On the FNESC side, we have more than 85 First Nations working together to
deal with the broader educational issues. We have a history of working together, being efficient and effective in what
Senator Campbell: I have a comment with regard to the language. I agree with you totally that the loss of a language
is the loss of the nation.
This may be simplistic, but it seems to me that there is a disconnect. Education is a provincial responsibility except
when it comes to First Nations. There is also always a disconnect between provincial education and school districts.
We see that in Vancouver, for instance, where the school board and the ministry are not agreeing on funding or how
it is being spent. Eventually, if there is no INAC, would the money then flow to the province and you would be able to
interact as an entity? I do not want to compare you to a school board, but you would interact with the province as an
entity with basically the same kinds of access to resources but also the same kinds of tensions that we have seen. Would
that make a difference? Get the feds right out of it.
Mr. Matthew: Get the feds out of it in terms of program development and the area of management.
We believe the federal government has an obligation to provide resourcing to First Nations on an ongoing basis
until treaties or self-governing arrangements are signed that would relieve them of that specific obligation for
We have no appetite for working under the province or having to go to the province to have any of our educational
needs met. We are fully capable of handling every aspect of education for the kids in our communities.
Senator Campbell: Again, it goes back to the funding. It goes back to how provincial education within an entity is
funded by taxpayers, right? Therefore, the funding of First Nations would have to be under agreement with a formula
of increases or whatever, and then you guys would deal with it.
As far as I am concerned, you are an example for Canada with regard to education. It goes back to funding and how
that funding flows for you.
Mr. Matthew: We have negotiated jurisdiction. In that we have detailed calculations of formula for the support of
First Nations schools. That is what we would like for everyone: a funding arrangement with Indian Affairs, with
Indian Affairs stepping aside and allowing First Nations to deal with education in the way they see fit. The only
obligation for the federal government is to provide resources.
The First Nations can provide appropriate arrangements with FNESC or the First Nations Schools Association, or
any other bodies we would create to manage centralized services and deal with second level services in the same fashion as
the province or the school districts. In that way, we could have a full suite of supports for what we consider to be an
effective First Nation system.
Senator Campbell: Would that funding be based on the funding provided by the provincial government, for instance,
per student in the overall system?
Mr. Matthew: We use the province as a frame of reference. We want to be able to compete for qualified, certified
teachers on the same basis. We want to talk about the resourcing that is appropriate for schools of the same size and
location as provincial schools, with added components that support unique features of First Nation schools like
language and culture.
Senator Campbell: While recognizing there must be gave and take there.
Mr. Matthew: Absolutely. We are in the process of negotiating that now. Right now, the federal government does not
have enough in its box of money to actually negotiate even what they believe is an appropriate agreement. It is currently
in front of cabinet.
Senator Campbell: Thank you very much. From British Columbia, keep up the good work.
The Chair: We have four minutes left, senators.
Senator Raine: I will step aside because I have talked to Mr. Matthew a lot. I will let my colleagues ask the
Senator Patterson: I found the presentation most encouraging. It was very impressive how you have exceeded
provincial standards in some respects, particularly of teacher certification, where the professional association — or the
union, I think you called it — can sometimes be heedless of public interest.
I know this is still a developing creature and there are major funding issues, but have you given some thought to the
legislative framework? Right now we have Indian Act provisions on First Nations education that date from 1867; they
are colonial, obsolete and embarrassing. Have you given any thought to a legislative framework for what you are
doing, what a First Nations education act for Canada should look like?
Mr. Matthew: We have not been thinking of a First Nations act for Canada. We have been negotiating legislation
that would recognize the right of First Nations in B.C. to have jurisdiction and law-making capacity over K to 12
education on reserves. We have federal legislation that is supported; it is passed. We have provincial legislation that is
passed. We have a suite of five agreements that already lay out the criteria for all of that.
Yes, we have thought of that and it is a made-in-B.C. approach to jurisdiction and how the federal and provincial
governments can enable and recognize the right of First Nations to deal with education as we see fit. That has already
been agreed to. The only thing that is holding us back is money. Yes, we have thought about it.
Senator Patterson: Can you elaborate on the federal legislation to recognize what you are doing?
Mr. Matthew: We started off in 2003 with a MOU with the province and the federal government. We negotiated the
terms and conditions of jurisdiction, and when those agreements were complete, part of the deal was that the federal
government would pass enabling legislation to recognize the jurisdiction of First Nations on reserve, and through that,
we would remove ourselves from sections 114 and 122 of the Indian Act. The Indian Act would not be in place.
INAC's only responsibility would be to provide resourcing based on those terms and conditions. In the same fashion,
the province would recognize that jurisdiction and would deal with us in that fashion.
Yes, the legislation is in place and the only thing we have to do now is negotiate the funding. That is for a limited
number of First Nations. We would like to have it open to all First Nations but the federal government in its wisdom
selected 24 First Nations that would be allowed through the door in the first instance.
Ms. Jeffrey: The other important legal framework in which we are operating is section 35 of the Constitution where
we have an inherent right to self-government, which includes a right to education. That allows us to determine what
that would look like. That is the other critical legal framework piece that provides the overall context and
comprehensive layer for where it is we are going in B.C. as well.
Ms. Williams: In the absence of the funding, we have not stopped working on our legislative framework. A key
component we have been working on for the last four years has been the development of First Nations education laws.
It is in keeping with the idea that, collectively, we could come up with something better than we could individually; it is
everyone thinking together.
We have draft education laws in place that communities are happy with. We already have all the underpinnings
there. Once we have the funding, we can get started.
Mr. Matthew: We are developing a First Nations education authority that would regulate schools, quality of
schools, certification of schools and teachers, and the certification of curriculum that would lead to a graduation
certificate that would be able to stand beside the provincial Dogwood Certificate, the grade 12 certificate.
We are doing these things. The only thing stopping us is resourcing, but we are doing a lot of it anyway. We intend
to move ahead because we believe it is our obligation and responsibility to deal with education in the way we feel is
appropriate and reflects what is happening in our community. If we had appropriate resourcing, we would not be here
The Chair: We would hope you would visit us anyway.
Mr. Matthew, with regard to Senator Campbell's question of why, I can understand why you want to control your
own destiny on education, but why not form a closer partnership or relationship with the province? They have the
infrastructure in place, and it seems to me there would be efficiencies there that would help First Nations on a broader
Mr. Matthew: The direction that we have been provided by First Nations in B.C. is to develop self-governing capacity
within education that does not include working under any kind of jurisdiction of the province. We can work alongside
them and have all kinds of agreement with regard to sharing, reciprocal tuition and dealing with curriculum and such.
However, managing the school system in B.C. is on our side of the table; it has little to do with the federal or provincial
governments, other than their obligation to recognize our right and resource that until some other provision has been
made through a treaty or self-government.
The Chair: You are well organized, professional and you know what you are doing. There are three senators here
from British Columbia on this committee and we British Columbians definitely encourage you to continue your good
work, which is not to say that that all senators would not have the same interests in seeing you succeed.
Thank you for appearing and thank you for your straightforward and candid answers to the excellent questions my
colleagues put to you.
If there is no other business, we are adjourned until tomorrow evening.