Backgrounder: First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act

The Government of Canada is committed to providing First Nation children with access to a quality education, just like every other Canadian.

To this end, on February 7, 2014 Prime Minister Harper announced that the Government of Canada, with the support of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), would be proceeding with the final drafting and introduction in Parliament of the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act.

This historic agreement follows years of discussions, dialogue and studies reflecting the efforts of many in First Nations and in government to arrive at this point – a bill that recognizes First Nations control of First Nations education.

The legislation recognizes the responsibility and accountability of First Nations in the administration of their education system on-reserve and provides funding through a new statutory mechanism, which includes funding for language and culture programming. The legislation will also improve transparency and promote accountability by establishing clear roles and responsibilities for education administrators, and annual reporting requirements.

The Act will ensure that all First Nation students have access to a high quality education; that students graduate with a recognized certificate or diploma, that teachers are properly certified; that schools are required to provide a minimum number of instructional hours and instructional days; and that students can transition seamlessly between systems on reserve and provincial schools.

What is new?

The First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act outlines a significant change from the October 2013 draft legislative proposal shared with all First Nations Chiefs. It builds upon years of dialogue, studies and reports, and reflects the five conditions outlined in the November 2013 Open Letter from Assembly of First Nations National Chief Atleo. The Act proposes to:

  • Create a Joint Council of Education Professionals, comprised of experts in education, to provide advice to First Nations and the Government of Canada on the implementation of the Act and on the development of regulations. The Joint Council's role would be to support First Nations Band Councils and First Nations Education Authorities in the improvement of the their education system, as well as play an oversight role ensuring that the ministerial powers provided by the Act are exercised with the benefit of the First Nations perspectives and used as a last resort.
  • Outline the Government of Canada's commitment to a statutory guarantee for stable, predictable and sustainable funding. This streamlined funding approach would replace the complex structures now in place to three funding streams: a statutory funding stream that will have reasonable rate of growth; transition funding to support the new legislative framework; and funding for long-term investments in on-reserve school infrastructure.
  • Enable First Nations to incorporate language and culture programming into their education curricula, and provide funding for language and culture programming within the statutory funding stream; and
  • Commit the Government to work in conjunction with First Nations to develop the Act's regulations, with support from the Joint Council.

The Path to the Agreement:

The Government of Canada and Assembly of First Nations agree to work together on the development of necessary regulations. The partnership does not end with the introduction of a bill. The overriding goal of legislation is better outcomes for First Nation students. First Nations and the Government of Canada agree that this is best achieved through First Nations control over First Nations education.

Major milestones:

  • December 2010 – the Government of Canada and the AFN announce the creation of the National Panel on First Nation Elementary and Secondary Education
  • June 2011 – the Government of Canada, together with the AFN, officially launch an engagement process
  • February 2012 – the National Panel releases its Final Report
  • December 2012 – the Government of Canada launches consultations for development of a First Nation Education Act and releases a Discussion Guide
  • July 2013 – the Government of Canada releases Blueprint for Discussion – a document outlining what the Government heard during the consultative process – and shares it with all Chiefs.
  • October 2013 – the Government of Canada shares the draft legislative proposal with all Chiefs.
  • November 2013 – the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations sends an Open Letter to the Government of Canada
  • December 2013 – the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development sends Open Letter to the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations
  • February 7, 2014 – The Government of Canada and Assembly of First Nations reach an historic agreement to reform the First Nations K-12 education system through the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act

For a more detailed chronology of activities to date see: Chronology of First Nations Education.