MANITOULIN—While about 1,000 First Nations protestors rallied on Parliament Hill on Wednesday of last week in a National Day of Resistance, urging more money be provided and less government control of their education systems while calling for a full inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women and for the federal government to back off their tobacco production, the Confederacy of Nations met to discuss the contentious issue of Bill C-33 and to ensure that the voice of First Nations across Canada was being reflected in the decision making process by the Assembly of First Nations (AFN).
“A couple of things came out at the meeting: we as First Nations reinforced our opposition to the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act, with an independent legal analysis having been presented to them by Olthius Fleer Townsend legal firm out of Toronto,” said Patrick Madahbee, grand council chief of the Anishinabek Nation. “There was unanimous opposition from those at the meeting to the bill. And we agreed an accord must be developed to meet with the federal government. The Confederacy want to put the power back into the hands of our First Nations.”
Chief Madahbee continued, “and we are still protesting the fact that there is a gap of between $3,000 to $10,000 per student in funding between aboriginal schools, compared to non-Native schools. After continuing to deny there is a gap, they (feds) finally acknowledged this and have indicated they will provide $1.9 billion to 633 First Nations over five to seven years, but this is not a lot of money when you look at it that way. And the five conditions that had been talked about were not met in the AFN national chief meeting with the prime minister. There is still too much ministry control, and in the agreement we had pushed for our cultural-language to be included, but the proposed agreement says it may put First Nations aboriginal language in the act.”
“The Chiefs of Ontario had called for the Confederacy meeting,” said Chief Madahbee, noting seven regions were present at the meeting, with 49 delegates and well over 70 chiefs, and was chaired by AFN regional chief for Quebec-Labrador Ghislain Picard, the official spokesperson for the AFN executive committee.
Discussions from the AFN Confederacy of Nations led to a unanimous rejection of the federal education bill in a meeting that brought together leaders from across Canada.
The Assembly of First Nations Confederacy of Nations, the governing body between the assemblies of the chiefs, provided with strong oversight powers, concluded a full agenda of discussion which led to a resolution that rejected Bill C-33. The Confederacy also assumed full control of all matters relating to education and Bill C-33 and will report to the Special Chiefs Assembly on May 27.
“We have invoked AFN charter provisions that give the First Nations across this country a say about matters of great importance,” said Chief Isadore Day of Serpent River First Nation in a press release. “Up to this point, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and the national chiefs office have unilaterally pushed Bill C-33. Where the executive has not been able to stand prudent on behalf of First Nations, the Confederacy reps will assert and stand firm.”
“What that all amounts to is what been going on between First Nations and the federal government,” said Chief Madahbee. “There has been no consultation between the prime minister and Minister of Aboriginal Affairs with our First Nations, they have only talked to our national chief on issues like the education bill,” said Chief Madahbee.