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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


December 14, 2002 - Issue 76


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First Nations Sign Historic Education Agreement

by Frank Matys: Orillia Today
credits: art Winter Mother by Cecil Youngfox
Winter Mother by Cecil YoungfoxIndian Affairs Minister Robert Nault and Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Vernon Roote were scheduled to sign-off on the self-governance agreement-in-principle during a ceremony Friday, at the casino's hotel and conference centre.

"It is clear the provincial standards and the current system don't meet the needs of our students," said Bob Goulais, a spokesperson for the Anishinabek Nation. "We need to find other ways of creating success. We need to make sure students aren't falling through the cracks."

Once approved, the agreement will give participating First Nations authority over all aspects of primary, elementary and secondary schooling for members living on-reserve.

Communities would decide for themselves the kind of education their children receive, develop curriculum, and determine how funding is spent.

Education is now governed under the Indian Act, but "because there isn't a federal responsibility for education, a lot of the requirements fall under the provincial government."

According to Goulais, the agreement will allow First Nations to deliver culturally-relevant programs and services based on each community's individual priorities.

Though funding will continue to flow from the federal government, First Nations will decide how those dollars are spent.

"That pot of money will be controlled by First Nations rather than by the department of Indian Affairs," added Goulais. "That's definitely significant."

A centralized education body would provide support to communities as they work to develop education laws and curriculum, he said.

"Some will be gangbusters from the start and develop a whole new curriculum, while others might gradually implement new education curriculum," he added.

Goulais said that, locally, Mnjikaning First Nation is already involved in negotiations focusing on a range of issues related to self-governance.

But since that process began in the mid-90s, the federal government has since initiated a separate process to address issues like education individually.

Whether or not Mnjikaning embraces the agreement is entirely its own decision, said Goulais.

"They really have a choice in the matter, they can support both processes if they want to," he added. "They have quite an opportunity." Friday's agreement-in-principle still has to be negotiated with a final implementation plan and funding agreement put in place, a process that could take as long as three years.

The Anishinabek Nation represents roughly 30 per cent of all First Nations people in Ontario.

Anishinabek Nation
The Anishinabek Nation, founded in 1949 as the Union of Ontario Indians, is a political advocate and secretariat to 43 member First Nations across Ontario.

The Anishinabek Nation territory encompasses First Nations along the north shore of Lake Superior and surrounding Lake Nipigon, the north shore of Lake Huron, Manitoulin Island, east to the Algonquins of Golden Lake (150 km east of Ottawa), and through the south central part of Ontario to the Chippewas of Sarnia First Nation.
Tribal groups represented within the Nation include Odawa, Ojibway, Pottawatomi, Delaware, Chippewa, Algonquin and Mississauga.

Orillia, ON Map
Maps by Travel

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