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May 28, 2014, Onion Lake Cree Nation Rebuttal to Minister Valcourt on Failed Bill C-33
Education Bill C-33 was rejected by a resolution of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Special Chiefs Assembly, May 27,
2014. In response, Andrea Richer, director of communications for Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt stated,
"Our government is extremely disappointed that the Assembly of First Nations did not honour its agreement with the
government," in addition, the official statement noted new funding earmarked for First Nations education would not be
forthcoming in the absence of compliance from First Nations. Okimaw Wallace Fox, Chief of Onion Lake Cree Nation in
Treaty No. 6 Territory, attended the AFN Chiefs Assembly and rebuts, Bill C-33 is unilaterally imposed by government
intended to implement the 1969 White Paper Policy on Indians. Worse, it was levelled against our most vulnerable
populations, our children. The Bill had to be killed.
The 1969 White Paper policy introduced by the Prime Minister and Minister of Indian Affairs was shelved as a result of
an uprising of unified First Nations voices across the Treaty territories. It called for the end of the Treaties, dismantling of
Indian Affairs, and services for Indians to be provided by the provinces amongst other matters. Chiefs reminded the
government at that time as it remains today; treaties are internationally binding covenants that cannot be unilaterally
rescinded. As binding covenants, free, prior, and informed consent from both parties to the Treaty is a requirement.
Free, prior, and informed consent was not only absent in the governments handling of this bill, but also failed to provide
opportunity for meaningful consultation and input by First Nations.
The promise to education made in Treaty No. 6 (1876) is a protected right within the Constitution of Canada and
education is an inherent right that was never given up by First Nations. The Bill makes no mention of inherent and
Treaty rights, furthermore, the recognition of First Nations education jurisdiction is completely absent. The overt
presence of Ministerial powers granted by the Bill infringes on and negates Treaty and inherent rights. The Honour of
the Crown is to be upheld in all dealings with Treaty partners and this Bill disregards that obligation by the Crown in
Right of Canada.
Onion Lake Cree Nation operates an immersion school where Cree is the language of instruction. The public must know
that the Bill prohibits full immersion by making French or English the language of instruction in First Nations schools.
Additionally, the Bill makes no provision for a statutory guarantee for sustainable needs-based funding of First Nations
schools wherein the government has conceded that First Nations schools are underfunded in comparison to provincial
schools. This discrepancy will continue unabated as a result of First Nations rejection of Bill C-33. Cree Immersion
schools that maintain the transmission of language and culture to our next generations will remain but are not privileged
to commensurate funding as their counter-parts French immersion schools.
First Nations children in the end suffer the consequences of underfunded education while Canada continues to reap the
benefits of lands rich in resources. It is a disgrace that this government refuses recognition of the Crowns obligations
in a relationship that was intended to be a mutually beneficial Treaty-based covenant, states Okimaw Fox.
Media Inquiries, Contact: Dunlop Muskego, Acting Director of Operations, 306-344-4200