A “Tweaked” Education Act Readied for Passage;
High-Level Government Attempts to Co-opt Support
Canada’s Federal Budget 2014and the New First Nations Education Act
Thanks to APTN National News for information
Ottawa, 11 February 2014 –
Federal Finance Minister JimFlaherty began his 2014 Budget message with a tribute tothe settlers, “the men and women who carved this greatcountry of the wilderness” nearly 150 years ago. As for First Nations, there is no new funding for educationor anything else for the 2014-2015 fiscal year.But the message prominently promised that if Parliament passes a bill called
First Nations Control of First Nation Education Act
there is a promise of money in 2016. Deciding if that package is stick or if it is carrot is noteasy. Apparently if First Nation chiefs do not support proposed legislation governing the operation of on-reserveschools. No Act, no money.
Federal officials said the $1.25-billion has already beenset aside in the “fiscal framework,” but it won’t bereleased until after the legislation passes.
As the message put it, “We have invested in apprentice-ship programs and measures to increase the numbers of people with disabilities, young people and AboriginalCanadians in the workforce by helping them find the jobtraining they need. But there is more we can and will do ...that is why the Prime Minister announced more than $1.9 billion in new funding to implement the
First NationsControl of First Nations Education Act.
And that was the beginning and end of any mention of “aboriginal people” in the budget. The budget offered no new details on the educationagreement announced Friday – thus far only spoken about but with neither the government nor the AFN releasing acopy of the Agreement. The biggest chunk of new money, $1.25-billion for coreeducation funding over three years, will only beginflowing in 2016 after the next federal election.If the legislation is passed, First Nations will get themoney in addition to the roughly $1.5-billion Ottawaalready spends yearly on core education funding,according to federal officials speaking on background.The additional money will amount to roughly $417-million per year for three years. In addition, a 4.5%escalator will apply to the total amount after the first year,federal officials said. The funding will also be enshrined in the legislation, providing “stable and predictable statutory funding.”Critics point that even those numbers will still not providefunding for First Nation students equal to what the samestudents would be provided for in the provincial systems. Federal officials said existing education program fundingfrom sources like the New Paths for Education, First Nation Student Success Program and EducationPartnership Program, will be rolled into an overall corefunding stream.The budget is silent on when the new legislation isexpected to surface for tabling. Previously, thegovernment had said it wanted the Bill whisked throughHouse committees and debate, then Senate committeesand debate, all before March 31 so it would apply with theopening of the school year in September. The federal budget also repeated Friday’s announcementof a $500-million over seven years “First NationsEducation Infrastructure Fund” Ottawa is promising for the building and upkeep of schools beginning next year. The infrastructure funding is a continuation of the $175-million over three years announced in last year’s budget.The infrastructure dollars still fall far short of estimatesthat range a little over $2-billion a year to get reserve