THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON ABORIGINAL PEOPLES
OTTAWA, Tuesday, December 12, 2017
The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples met this day at 9 a.m. to give clause-by-clause consideration to Bill C-61, An Act to give effect to the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
Senator Lillian Eva Dyck (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good morning, tansi. I would like to welcome all honourable senators and members of the public who are watching this meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples either here in the room or listening via the Web.
I would like to acknowledge, for the sake of reconciliation, that we are meeting on the traditional, unceded lands of the Algonquin peoples.
My name is Lillian Dyck. I have the honour and privilege of chairing the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples. I’m from Saskatchewan. I would now invite my fellow senators to introduce themselves, starting on my right.
Senator Doyle: Norman Doyle, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Senator Sinclair: Senator Murray Sinclair, Manitoba.
Senator Pate: Kim Pate, Ontario.
Senator Gold: Marc Gold, Quebec.
The Chair: Thank you, senators. Senator Tannas, our deputy chair, has just arrived, right on time.
Senator Tannas: Good morning.
The Chair: Today we will be considering Bill C-61, An Act to give effect to the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
We begin our consideration this morning with department officials that we have before us today. We will have them for half an hour and then move to a second panel.
This morning, from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, we have before us Perry Billingsley, Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Treaties and Aboriginal Government; Blake McLaughlin, Senior Director, Treaties and Aboriginal Government; Murray Pridham, Senior Negotiator, Treaties and Aboriginal Government. From the Department of Justice we have Peter Coon, Legal Counsel. Please begin your presentations, gentlemen.
Perry Billingsley, Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada: Thank you, Madam Chair. Honourable senators, before you today is Bill C-61, the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement act. This is a historic piece of legislation to give effect to the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement, the first self-government agreement in Ontario and the largest in Canada due to the number of participating First Nations. The Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement act creates the Anishinabek Education System — a system designed by Anishinabek First Nations for Anishinabek students to deliver culturally relevant and community-tailored education programs and services for the benefit of current and future generations.
At its core, Bill C-61 recognizes the 23 participating First Nations' jurisdiction to exercise law-making power with respect to primary, elementary and secondary education on reserve. Dated sections of the Indian Act on education would no longer apply to participating First Nations.
The Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement is a concrete example of the importance of partnerships — including the support of the provincial government — in achieving real, tangible results and realizing a better tomorrow for indigenous students.
Honourable senators, this self-government arrangement would help deliver on the participating First Nations’ vision of creating a better future for their youth while providing quality and culturally appropriate education. This process is about putting in place an arrangement that achieves these First Nations’ vision of self-determination.
In the limited time we have this morning, I would like to provide an overview of one of the key elements of this self-government arrangement, the new fiscal relationship that will be established. The new fiscal transfer agreement will provide stable, predictable and flexible funding for participating First Nations. The fiscal arrangement consolidates a fragmented and short-term bundle of core and non-core education programming into a single self-government grant transfer, which is typically renewed at five-year intervals. Funding is indexed annually for inflation and volume, as reflected by changes to student enrolment, to ensure that provincial comparability is maintained over time.
The creation of the Anishinabek Education System means new and ongoing education governance funding will also be provided in recognition of the increased responsibilities assumed by the First Nations with respect to school board and education policy functions. In addition, one-time implementation funding is provided to assist the participating First Nations to transition out from under the Indian Act to become self-governing with respect to education. Further, the agreement commits Canada to monitor future education investments to ensure that participating First Nations can continue to benefit from any future funding increases provided by Canada to other First Nations in Ontario.
With respect to infrastructure funding and other programs outside the normal scope of the agreement, participating First Nations continue to be eligible for future Government of Canada investments to ensure First Nations students have access to a safe and supportive learning environment.
In Budgets 2016 and 2017, Canada made major commitments to building national infrastructure, including a significant allocation for indigenous infrastructure needs. Since 2016, over $400 million has been invested to support over 140 projects, including construction of new schools, renovation or expansion of existing schools, planning and support infrastructure.
Of these 143 projects, 8 new schools have been built and 3 schools renovated. There are currently 63 new schools being built, 56 renovations under way and 13 school-related projects in progress.
At the same time, the Government of Canada is undertaking a collaborative fiscal policy development process with self-governing First Nations. Through that process, the infrastructure needs of self-governing First Nations are being looked at to establish new approaches and to ensure that funding levels are appropriate.
I’d also like to note that the link between self-government and increased prosperity is being very well established. In particular, the World Bank has undertaken a large amount of research into the connection between governance and prosperity.
With respect to education, for example, in Nova Scotia, 12 Mi’kmaq First Nations are working together to deliver a locally controlled education system and are achieving remarkable outcomes. Their system has seen extraordinary improvements in student outcomes, such as a graduation rate of approximately 90 per cent, more than twice the average of 38 per cent for all First Nation schools in Canada. Literacy, numeracy, and school attendance and retention performance indicators have all continued to show improvement.
It is my sincere belief that the passage of Bill C-61 will enable the 23 participating First Nations to achieve similar success; the Anishinabek First Nations are ready to capitalize on their potential for improved education outcomes and overall socio-economic well-being.
Finally, this negotiated agreement, which has been ratified by the participating Anishinabek community members, reflects the Government of Canada’s commitment to work in partnership with First Nations in a renewed nation-to-nation relationship. In short, the participating First Nations have spoken as to what self-determination can look like for them. It is embodied in Bill C-61.
The Chair: Thank you. We will now begin questioning, starting with our deputy chair, Senator Tannas.
Senator Tannas: Thank you for being here, gentlemen. This is indeed great news and a great step forward.
I just have a couple of nuts-and-bolts questions that I want to make sure we get on the record.
First of all, could you tell me how these school boards would function essentially in the same way that school boards function in non-indigenous regions and communities, and maybe how they’re different? Are specific characteristics envisioned? I understand the cultural goals, aims and so on, but in terms of the mechanics or structure of the organizations, how will they be similar to non-indigenous school boards and how might they be different?
Mr. Billingsley: I’m going to turn to Murray to answer the specifics.
Murray Pridham, Senior Negotiator, Treaties and Aboriginal Government, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada: Thank you for the question, senator.
Our partners will be telling their story after us. I’m sure it’s something they’d like to expand on as well, but I’ll speak a little bit about it.
In terms of establishing the new board, the Kinoomaadziwin Education Body, it will be the central education authority on behalf of the system. What is a little bit different about this group is where the control lies, and the control lies with the community members in a system that is designed to achieve accountable outcomes for school decision making and spending authorities, so it’s driven at the grassroots level.
A plan would be put in place to achieve those outcomes, and it will be measured annually, whether they’re achieving outcomes, and essentially a continuous model of improvement will be established. What happened this year? How can we do things differently in the future? How can we make improvements? Are there special areas that we need to focus in on? Those are maybe some of the similarities.
Where there’s a little bit of a further difference is that a typical school board has full control over the schools it runs. Likely the biggest difference here is the community control and working in partnership with the board, whereas a regular school board in a provincial system has more autonomy and a mandate on behalf of its members to do that work.
Senator Tannas: Delving into that a little bit, will this model have some safeguards? I think back to the previous education agreement that was made, and one of the contentious issues is what happens when it’s not functioning and it needs to be resolved and reconstituted by the people. How is that all considered in this particular agreement?
Mr. Pridham: Again, I think our partners will be able to speak more in depth on this question, but I can say that the relationship that we’re going to establish with our partners isn’t a sole venture. There is an implementation and operating committee in place, if issues come up in making sure the system rolls out. We’re here to support the best we can, to give advice. We’ve got the same type of arrangement with the Mi’kmaq system, so we can pull those best practices and share that.
Senator Tannas: Thank you.
Senator Sinclair: Thank you. I have a number of questions, some for clarification and some just to understand how things came to be the way they are in this agreement which has led to this bill.
To begin with, the definition of “band” in section 2 relies upon the Indian Act. If the Indian Act is changed, obviously that’s not going to stand. At least it will have to comply with the new legislation. Is that the intention here? Are you going to try to solidify this term “Indian band” in this legislation forever?
Peter Coon, Legal Counsel, Department of Justice Canada: The idea is that we use the definition of “band” because basically the only parts that this agreement changes are the education provisions. With this agreement, the education provisions of the Indian Act no longer apply to the Indian bands, so as far as education is concerned, they have self-government.
The rest of the provisions of the Indian Act do continue to apply to the First Nations, like the provisions relating to land and members and the definition of “band.” So if the Indian Act does change, presumably the definition of “band” would change as well. It would track any changes that might happen in the Indian Act.
Mr. Billingsley: And then the other thing I would add to Peter’s commentary is that we are negotiating self-government in respect of governance provisions with the same group of First Nations, which would have an impact on the definition of “band” if we come to an agreement in that.
Senator Sinclair: Thank you. One of the concerns I have constantly with legislation like this and agreements like this is that they create a hodgepodge of different authorities and different kinds of legal relationships across the country.
You referred to the Mi’kmaq Education Agreement. There are also, of course, agreements with regard to other First Nations in the country.
I wonder if you would tell us briefly, if you can, in what way this agreement differs from those other agreements that specifically deal with the issue of self-government or self-determination and in specific terms deal with the question of the authority of the First Nation to deal with education in their community.
Mr. Billingsley: I’ll try to do this briefly. Regarding education and the approach to taking on responsibility for education, it’s probably very similar to some of the other agreements. One of the things, looking at the education agreement in Nova Scotia, has been its success. So in developing further education arrangements, we want to build on that.
At the same time, we do want to reflect and build on what the nation itself is looking for in terms of education, so we're trying to balance — I don’t want to say a uniform approach, but a common approach -- with the specific needs and interests of the nation itself.
Senator Sinclair: Well, I understand that. You can do that with one piece of legislation that governs the entire country, but you’ve chosen to do it individually with individual agreements, so I’m just curious about what the thinking is around negotiating separate agreements, particularly relating to education but also child welfare and other areas of exercise of jurisdiction by First Nation communities, because you might run into a situation where one First Nation in one part of the country has a different kind of authority than a First Nation in another part of the country. That’s a concern I have.
Mr. Billingsley: That is a concern I think we share, but we’ve seen a national approach to education, for example, that in the end didn’t work, partly because it’s trying to balance different interests and different expressions, different groups across the country.
By coming at it on the interested-partner approach, what we have are negotiations with communities, with nations who are interested in moving forward on education, in this particular instance, or on self-governance in another instance or who have identified child and family services as a particular priority for themselves at this point in time.
Senator Sinclair: So at what point in time is the department going to bite the bullet and actually develop the self-government law?
Mr. Billingsley: I have been doing this for quite some time, and I have to say that we do not hear from the people that we are in discussions with a desire for a legislated approach to self-government. I think that something could be developed that would be very viable. It would be a national approach. It would be accessible. But we’re not hearing a demand for it. What we’re hearing a demand for is negotiations, discussions that address the specific interests of a specific community.
Senator Sinclair: I don’t think you’re talking to the same people that I’m talking to, so I’m curious about this: At what point in time do you think — and I’m going back, now, to larger dialogues that have been ongoing — the Government of Canada will actually start to develop a plan that doesn’t create self-government but recognizes the inherent right to self-government that First Nations have had and that may have been interfered with by the Government of Canada over the years?
Mr. Billingsley: When are we going to do that? I think when we understand that there is more widespread interest. I’m speaking hypothetically here because what I’m hearing is there is not a widespread interest in a legislated approach. Canada’s policies in respect of self-government recognize an inherent right and make the case that negotiating is the best way to implement that right.
Senator Sinclair: I encourage you to attend AFN assemblies more often, sir.
Mr. Billingsley: I have been to the AFN assemblies, sir, and I am also told on any number of occasions that the AFN does not speak for many of the First Nations that we negotiate with.
Senator Sinclair: That’s an interesting perspective.
Let me go back to the document itself, if you don’t mind. Looking at clause 6, it’s another provision that concerns me a bit. Clause 6 specifically says that this is not a treaty for purposes of the law -- the Constitution Act in particular, I assume. The agreement is quite lengthy, and I looked quickly at the issue of what is in the agreement. This is an area that I assume was part of the discussions that went on with the group with which the agreement was negotiated, the question of whether this would be considered a treaty.
Mr. Pridham: That’s correct, senator.
Senator Sinclair: There’s a provision in the agreement that addresses that?
Mr. Pridham: Yes, that’s right. Essentially we’ve been working with a mandate that comes from our partners not to open up the treaties, not to try to reinterpret them but to put in a practical agreement that addresses education.
Senator Sinclair: Which treaty are you specifically thinking of?
Mr. Pridham: With our up to 39 partners, there are a number of treaties in this area, pre-Confederation, the Robinson-Huron, Robinson-Superior, Williams — there are various treaty areas, as well as southwestern Ontario early treaties. There is quite a treaty framework, and that was likely the impetus for not going there.
Senator Sinclair: So you’re saying it was the First Nations who asked you not to guarantee a treaty right to education in this document?
Mr. Pridham: That’s my understanding.
Senator Sinclair: Were you at the table, sir, or was somebody else there?
Mr. Pridham: I would have been too young.
Senator Sinclair: You’re making me feel old now. I’m curious as to the background for this particular provision. It seems like an important provision to me. I’m wondering how it came about and whether it was actively negotiated or simply put into the legislation because the government found it in their interest to put it there.
Mr. Pridham: I’ll ask counsel to answer.
Senator Sinclair: Thank you.
Mr. Coon: This is the result of negotiations. We wouldn’t have had an agreement if the First Nations had insisted that this agreement be a treaty. I think they saw what was in the agreement and the nature of the rights and the nature of the education system that they can develop under the agreement.
At the end of the day, we came to the conclusion that this won’t be a treaty. I can’t say that whether in the future this could be changed into a treaty or not. We just have to leave that to the future. I would encourage you to ask the First Nations for their position on this.
Senator Sinclair: I intend to. I wanted to ask you at the beginning, though.
Senator Gold: Welcome. The Senate sponsor of the bill, our colleague Senator Christmas, in his speech in the chamber described this agreement as another important milestone on the long journey in nation-to-nation partnerships between Canada and the First Nations. I want to first congratulate you and your partners, both those present and others, for achieving this.
Could you describe briefly the extent to which you see this as a model for other relationships and agreements that you could reach with other First Nations in other parts of the country and what might be in the process and what might we look forward to in the years to come?
Mr. Billingsley: I think it can be a model, although we’re always very careful about describing any particular group’s self-government arrangement as a model for another group. It can perhaps be more along the lines of an inspiration for developing arrangements that achieve the same goals.
As for further work that’s taking place in sectoral self-government negotiations, so self-government negotiations around one single or two sectors of interest of the First Nations, some discussions are happening in the Prairies around education arrangements, as well as in British Columbia. We’re hopeful that we’re going to be able to move those forward.
Senator Gold: Thank you. I have a very quick follow-up: For those watching who may not be as familiar as you are with the processes and the negotiations, how would you characterize the 22-year period that has culminated in this agreement? Is that par for the course? Might we expect things to take that long or not so long going forward?
Mr. Billingsley: Typically negotiations around a subject like education don’t take as long. I think in this respect it reflects the history of the relationship over time.
Senator Gold: Thank you.
Mr. Pridham: Senator, if I may, when we were doing the community consultations, that was something the community members raised: To establish a practical education agreement, could we be a little quicker with these processes? We heard that right at the community level.
Senator Pate: I would like to pick up on something here, but I suspect Senator Sinclair may as well. This question arises from your answers to Senator Sinclair and in some respects to Senator Gold: Were First Nations actually satisfied with the agreement, or was it with resignation that they accepted not to have the treaty right to education? Could you comment on that? Also, where we would find some of those historical documents, if they’re not immediately available?
Then I want to pick up on something that our chair raised previously in some of the discussions in the chamber. Given the historical discrepancies in funding, what kinds of arrangements are being made now, and were some of the funding arrangements and the lack of funding for such costs as construction, maintenance and some one-time implementation activities part of the reason that some First Nations have not agreed to participate in the agreement? Could you comment more on the latter because I’m sure others will pick up the former.
Mr. Pridham: Senator, I’ll talk about the funding agreement. That has been a contemplated negotiation, but there are a number of safeguards and provisions that allow communities to maintain comparability over time so that whatever happens with the First Nations that are still under the Indian Act, there will be some natural assurances that the self-government communities will receive funding. We call those general funding increases. They are new investments on the Indian Act side. We will look at those investments and bring them into our self-government grant.
Mr. Billingsley talked about that in his speech, about the escalators, so that a self-government transfer will get indexed for inflation on an annual basis. Likewise, the change in the student count will get reflected so that the agreement will increase over time.
There is also another provision, which we call no restrictions, so if the Government of Canada designs a new program, there will be access to those types of programs. We also have an extraordinary circumstances provision. If there was an emergency in the First Nation and they were unable to deliver the responsibilities, there would an opportunity to have a discussion, to figure out what the remedy should be to try to ensure that those services continue.
Those are some of the safeguards to ensure funding is equitable and comparable.
Mr. Billingsley: And then if I may add to that, there is that broader exercise that I referred to with self-governing First Nations where we’re looking at the entire fiscal relationship, essentially rebuilding the fiscal relationship from the ground up. This is based on their own experience in functioning as governments and the adequacy of federal funding and looking at those kinds of issues, which include infrastructure issues.
Senator Pate: Thank you to you both of you. I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear, but what was the reason that, as I understand, 16 or 17 First Nations did not participate?
Mr. Pridham: There are probably a few reasons for that. We understand that in some communities there were other processes happening, other elections and referendums, reasons why they didn’t undertake a ratification vote. We understand some communities were more cautious. They wanted to see if the system would take flight, and I think we’re on the cusp of making that happen. We did hear that some communities did not ratify because capital was not included. Those are about the three reasons.
Senator Pate: And to your knowledge, nobody refused because it wasn’t a treaty right?
Mr. Pridham: Not to my knowledge.
Senator Patterson: Thank you. I’d like to follow up on the reference to capital.
I’m wondering what condition the schools are in in the communities covered by the agreement. I’d like to know a little bit more about the collaborative fiscal development process, which apparently will address capital.
That sounds awfully bureaucratic to me. Can you comment on this issue of capital? I do note that the last failed effort at federal education legislation did include a significant capital contribution to upgrade schools that we know are probably sorely in need of improvement.
Mr. Billingsley: My apologies, senator, for describing the collaborative fiscal process in such a bureaucratic way.
It’s actually a very interesting exercise where we are sitting down with 28 indigenous governments who have, shall we say, issues with the federal approach to financial transfers to their governments and really looking at every aspect of the fiscal relationship to see if we’re doing it right.
We’re looking at these things: What are the appropriate escalators? What are the appropriate escalators over time? What are the remoteness indicators we should be looking at in terms of the operation of a government? We’re also looking at the fundamental nature of governance for groups in different circumstances.
As part of that discussion, we’re looking — some of the self-governing First Nations have capital as part of their arrangements, and so we’re looking at how that capital transfer or that capital portion of the transfer is functioning over the years that they’ve had their agreements to see if we’ve gotten it right. I suspect that the answer will be no, not really, and that we will look at how we can adjust how that functions to do a better job.
Senator Patterson: Thank you. Senator Murray Sinclair talked about the hodgepodge, his concern about different structures reflected in this agreement.
There’s the Kinoomaadziwin Education Body, and then there’s the implementation and operations committee. How do those two relate? Is one subordinate to the other? Why do you need an implementation and operations committee if you’ve got an education authority?
Mr. Pridham: I can speak to that one. I think it goes back to our lessons learned around implementing these types of arrangements. We want to ensure that there is a sound plan in place. The committee is a high-level committee comprised of federal officials and officials from the Kinoomaadziwin Education Body and the self-governing First Nations to meet on an as-needed basis to ensure the agreement is being implemented and the obligations are being met.
The Kinoomaadziwin Education Body is stand-alone. It will be a self-governing institution on behalf of the self-governing communities. It will be up to the communities to decide how the board is comprised and all of its rules of operation.
So the two are separate, but they work together.
Senator Patterson: I’m just wondering. So the Kinoomaadziwin Education Body is stand-alone. What if it wants to go to the government and say, “We have pressing issues about capital,” shall we say. It would negotiate or ask for a meeting with the regional or the central officials in INAC.
Would that be the role of the implementation and operations committee? I just don’t quite understand why you have a high-level committee and an independent board, why there wouldn’t be duplication or overlap. Can you explain that?
Mr. Pridham: There wouldn’t be any duplication whatsoever. The Kinoomaadziwin Education Body is assisting the First Nations to run and deliver their education system.
The implementation committee is ensuring that transfer payments from Canada are made, that the correct adjustments for inflation and student numbers are made every year. They also want to ensure that the reporting that is going to come from the new education system is received. Those are the main functions of the oversight implementation committee.
The Chair: Thank you to our first panel this morning from Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada and the Department of Justice. We have run out of time. My apologies to Senator Sinclair; he can save his questions for the second panel.
Honourable senators, for our second panel, we’re happy to have representatives from the First Nations involved in this historic event. We have before us today, from the Anishinabek Nation, Deputy Grand Chief Glen Hare; from the Kinoomaadziwin Education Body, Kelly Crawford, Director, Anishinabek Education System; from the Chippewas of Rama First Nation, Evelyn Ball, Education Body Board Director; and from the Biigtigong Nishnaabeg First Nation, Lisa Michano-Courchene, Education Body Board Director. We have on standby the Chief Negotiator, Tracey O’Donnell, who will come to the table if any questions are directed to her.
With that, we will begin the second panel.
Glen Hare, Deputy Grand Chief, Anishinabek Nation: Good morning, honourable senators. When I walked in this morning, I literally saw what I’ve always heard, that you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I saw it this morning here, so I want to say meegwetch.
[Editor’s Note: The witness spoke in his native language.]
My name is Glen Hare. I’m from M’Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island.
In the interest of time, I will go right into it, again, on behalf of the communities that we serve, 40 communities from Thunder Bay to the Ottawa Valley to Sarnia. I am a former chief and councillor in my community of 20-some years. I started in 2006 as Deputy Grand Chief for the Anishinabek Nation.
Education has been at the top of our work priorities. From 2006 until today, I have literally travelled and driven 1.3 million kilometres visiting our communities face to face to talk about education and, more importantly, child welfare. Hopefully we will see you soon to discuss another bill, and that is to protect our kids. There would be no education if we did not have any kids.
We have done our due diligence. I certainly believe that. Let’s remember the people who we all started with. A lot of us are not here anymore, but they’re the people who started this and the reason we are here today. I want to acknowledge them.
I’ve heard questions here this morning that our team can answer. I want to say meegwetch for putting Tracey on standby. I will put her on standby from here too, I guess. It’s cool.
I wanted to say a few words. The reason we’re here today is for the children. I myself do not have priorities. I will not prioritize anything over anything. If it’s child welfare at two o’clock in the morning, that’s what I will have to do. I wanted to share that. To my colleagues here and to you, I want to say meegwetch for giving us the opportunity to be here today.
Evelyn Ball, Education Body Board Director, Chippewas of Rama First Nation: Good morning.
[Editor’s Note: The witness spoke in her native language.]
Good morning, honourable senators. I’m from the Chippewas of Rama First Nation, which is located just outside of Orillia. I’m a member of the Kinoomaadziwin Education Body Board of Directors, and I want to thank the committee for the opportunity to be here today. I also want to acknowledge that we are in the traditional territory of the Algonquin people. I’d like to acknowledge all of our ancestors and give thanks for all of us being together today.
The Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement was negotiated over a period of 22 years. During that time, we never wavered in our position that Anishinabek control over education is essential to support Anishinabek student success and well-being.
For the Anishinabek, learning is from cradle to grave. However, our agreement only covers learning from junior kindergarten To Grade 12, and this is the jurisdiction that Canada was prepared to negotiate with us. This is a positive start, and in the future we hope to address learning from our very youngest to our very oldest.
Passage of Bill C-61 confirms Canada’s recognition of our jurisdiction over education from JK to Grade 12 and confirms Canada’s obligation to fund education for these grade levels and for post-secondary education student support.
Passage of this bill will confirm the establishment of the Anishinabek Education System. We have built a system of education that includes three levels.
The First Nations are the lawmakers of our system. Each of the participating First Nations will pass an education act that sets out the First Nation jurisdiction over education and supports the establishment of the Anishinabek Education System. The First Nations are responsible for the delivery of education to students living on reserve.
The second level is the regional education council. We have four RECs that are comprised of the First Nations in regional proximity to each other that will work together to support regional education priorities.
Finally, we created the Kinoomaadziwin Education Body. The KEB exists to receive the self-government from Canada and distribute that funding through our system. The KEB will support the First Nations in the delivery of education programs and services through curriculum development, the establishment of system-wide education standards and the development of Anishinabek culture and language programs.
We believe our model will be responsive to student needs and respectful of First Nation jurisdiction over education.
Canada’s role in our education arrangement is essentially to fund education at the negotiated rates. This respects that fiduciary relationship between Canada and the Anishinabek First Nations and our inherent right to control over education.
Education was used against indigenous peoples to take away our culture, our languages, our traditional knowledge, our spirituality and our traditional family structures. The legacy of harm and abuse of the residential school system has been brought to the world through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Eleven of the 94 calls to action deal specifically with education, language and culture.
The enactment of Bill C-61 is one step towards reconciliation that will address the call to develop a strategy to eliminate educational and employment gaps. By running the AES, we will follow in the steps of the Mi’kmaw in Nova Scotia, who were mentioned earlier, to build and operate a system that focuses and succeeds in achieving graduation rates that are higher than the provincial standards and opening more doors for employment based on education.
Now it is the time for the Anishinabek to use education to restore our culture, our languages, our traditional knowledge, our spirituality and our traditional family structures. With Anishinabek control of Anishinabek education, we can ensure the very survival of our nation and the well-being of all of our students.
I would like to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to share this with you. Meegwetch.
Lisa Michano-Courchene, Education Body Board Director, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg First Nation: Bonjour.
[Editor’s Note: The witness spoke in her native language.]
Good morning, honourable senators. My name is Lisa Michano-Courchene. I come from a community near Thunder Bay, Ontario, Biigtigong Nishnaabeg, and it’s here that I am honoured to speak in support of Bill C-61.
As we move forward, a part of this agreement has a second agreement that complements it that comes from the Ontario government, and we’ve been at the table with the Ontario government as there are 10,000 Anishinabek students attending public systems.
This complementary agreement on education with Ontario comes with great respect from them in that we have the law-making power and authority to govern and administer education for our members based on this agreement. This Master Education Agreement with Ontario addresses concerns with the relationship between the Anishinabek Education System and the provincial system. It will support and establish standards for access to quality, culturally appropriate education that will enhance both the Anishinabek Nation and Ontario school participants.
The Master Education Agreement which will complement this in the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement will enhance student engagement, student success, the standards, culture and language, professional and leadership development in education, data and information sharing, education service agreement standards, research and dispute resolution, among other topics.
We are in the final negotiations with Ontario for a multi-year action plan based on some of these topics, and we’re expecting to complete these negotiations and sign off on the arrangements with Ontario before April 1.
I just want to speak more on a personal note. I am the second generation of the result of residential schools. I was a student in the public system. Even though residential school had ended and the Indian day schools were coming to an end, we still were shipped off our reserve to attend school in publicly funded systems. That’s where my education began, and that’s where I was first exposed to the daily racial taunts, the daily challenges of being from a different race in the public systems.
I had no reflection of my culture and language, and to this day I regret not learning the language to the best that I could have.
I think that it’s important that Ontario is now coming to the table to invest with us in the agreements that are in place, because there is an obligation that they come to the table and they speak to what is not being fulfilled in those public systems.
This agreement will enable us now to work collaboratively and take on the responsibility that we’ve never given up as a nation. I am anxious for this to come. Twenty years ago I was still a student in those systems, so this is a long time coming. My ancestors and my community members worked hard to get to this point.
It all comes down to the spirit of the children. We are who we are and we are resilient. We will forever put the spirit of that child and we know that’s the focus of our vision. Meegwetch.
Kelly Crawford, Director, Anishinabek Education System, Kinoomaadziwin Education Body: Aanii, boozhoo.
[Editor’s Note: The witness spoke in her native language.]
Good morning, honourable senators. My name is Kelly Crawford and I am from M’Chigeeng First Nation on Manitoulin Island. I am the director of education for the Kinoomaadziwin Education Body.
Meegwetch. Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today in support of Bill C-61.
In my presentation I’m going to focus on the Anishinabek Education System and the Anishinabek educational landscape. I have provided you with a document that includes the information that I will be reviewing.
The Anishinabek Nation as a whole is comprised of 40 First Nations in the province of Ontario. These First Nations span from the northern shores of Lake Superior, where Fort William First Nation is located near Thunder Bay; to the east, where the Algonquins of Pikwakanagan are located near Ottawa; and then to Aamjiwnaang in the southwest, near Sarnia, Ontario.
Of these 40 First Nations, 23 First Nations are the first moving forward under the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement to establish the Anishinabek Education System. The remaining 17 First Nations are still able to ratify the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement and become part of the Anishinabek Education System at any time in the future.
The document you have lists the participating First Nations on page 5. These 23 First Nations have about 1,700 JK to Grade 12 students living on reserve. Just under half of these students live on reserve and attend school on reserve, and just over half live on reserve and attend school off reserve. In addition, the 23 First Nations also have about 11,000 students off reserve attending provincial schools from JK to Grade 12.
There are 11 First Nations elementary schools on reserve and four First Nations secondary school programs operating on reserve. The size and grade levels offered at elementary schools located on reserve varies. Aamjiwnaang First Nation offers a JK and SK program on reserve, and then students move to the provincial school system. Others offer elementary programs up to Grades 3, 4 and 5.
One First Nation, Long Lake No. 58, has a closed school system where all of their students attend elementary and secondary school on reserve.
In summary, there are 16 First Nations school programs operating in 13 First Nations. You will find a list of the First Nations with schools and the grade levels at the schools on page 7 of the document.
There are 10 First Nations that send all of their students off reserve to provincially funded schools. Of the 76 school boards in Ontario, the Anishinabek First Nations have education service or tuition agreements with 17 school boards. This represents 22 per cent of all of the boards in the province of Ontario.
We have provided you with information on the staffing levels in some of our schools and the dates the schools were built — that’s on page 9 — to provide you with a sense of how education is currently offered in our communities. There is a breakdown of our student population on pages 10 and 11 of the report that was provided to you.
With the passage of Bill C-61, the Anishinabek First Nations will have full control over education from JK to Grade 12. We will make a difference in the lives of almost 14,000 students, over 11,000 in JK to Grade 12 and almost 3,000 in college and university. These students are the future not only for the participating First Nations but also for Canada as well.
We need Bill C-61 to pass to allow the participating First Nations to control what our students learn. We have an opportunity here to use education as a tool to rebuild and strengthen our nation, our language, our culture and our traditions. We will use the education funding provided by Canada to support the delivery of culturally appropriate programs and services, increase student attendance rates, increase our graduation rates and ensure the preservation and promotion of our Anishinabek culture and language.
There are benefits for First Nations with schools and First Nations that do not have schools under the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement. I will review some of these for you now.
For First Nations with schools, these benefits include the following:
Full control over all aspects of education from JK to Grade 12.
Opportunity to develop and implement Anishinabek curriculum and education standards.
Secure predictable funding for operating the schools and delivering education programs and services.
New core funding.
New funding to run the Anishinabek education system.
Automatic top-ups if the federal government puts more funding into First Nation education for all First Nations than what is provided to the Anishinabek First Nations.
Post-secondary funding is included.
Negotiating processes for First Nations to negotiate for more education funding from Canada.
Shared resources to support student success.
Opportunity to develop an education partnership with Ontario.
For First Nations without schools, these benefits include the following:
New relationship with provincial school boards to enhance student success and well-being.
Opportunity to develop and implement curriculum changes in the provincial education system.
Secure predictable funding to deliver education programs and purchase services from provincial school boards.
New core funding.
New funding to run the Anishinabek Education System.
Post-secondary funding is included.
Negotiated process for First Nations to secure more education funding from Canada.
Shared resources to support student success.
Opportunity to develop an education partnership with Ontario.
For students on reserve, the benefits include system-level support to provide student access to Anishinabek culture, language and history in on-reserve schools. The focus on student needs will increase attendance, help students get better grades and increase graduation rates. There will be continued access to post-secondary funding.
For students off reserve, there will be system-level support to provide students access to Anishinabek culture, language and history in off-reserve schools. A focus on Anishinabek student needs will increase attendance, help students get better grades and increase graduation rates, and there will also be continued access to post-secondary funding.
I want to take this opportunity to say meegwetch and thank you for having us here. As a community member, as a mother and as an educator, meegwetch for being part of this process.
The Chair: Thank you, panel members. We’ll now start questioning.
Senator Tannas: Thank you very much for your presentations. I want to make sure that I understand. Ms. Crawford, your paper here is helpful. Today there are 83 per cent of students attending a school off reserve. Presumably those schools will not be controlled by the new entity; they will continue to be controlled by local school boards, but there will be some kind of overriding direction from the province. Is that how it will work, where the province will tell them what they need to do so it flows down? Is that the vision?
Ms. Michano-Courchene: Yes, that’s correct. I spoke to the Ontario Master Education Agreement. We won’t be governing their schools or anything like that, but together Ontario has come to the table to address the concerns that affect our students, and they are willing to work at a new vision for that.
Senator Tannas: Is it envisioned that those school boards delivering the services will have some kind of enhanced funding to deliver what they’re being asked or told they need to deliver?
Ms. Michano-Courchene: Yes, fiscal negotiations are happening with the Ontario government and with our negotiation team, and money will be set aside to do enhanced work to improve what we want to see improved in the systems.
Senator Tannas: And if you have a problem or an issue with an individual school, will you have a mechanism to deal directly with the school board in that school, or will you have to start at the top of the funnel and work your way back?
Ms. Michano-Courchene: A big piece of our Ontario Master Education Agreement is relationship building, so we will have that direct relationship with the school boards and with the First Nations at the local level and at the REC level, as well as at the Kinoomaadziwin Education Body level.
Senator Tannas: That’s a lot of moving parts.
Ms. Michano-Courchene: Yes.
Senator Tannas: It will rely on the goodwill of everybody. I wish you luck with that. I believe you’ll get it done, but holy smokes, no wonder it took 22 years to get here. Thank you.
Senator Sinclair: Thank you for your presentations. Congratulations on your agreement. It’s a very significant step that’s happening here. I do have a couple of questions to clarify. You heard some of the questions I asked of the Canadian representatives earlier. Mine are in a similar vein.
One was on the issue of treaty right to education. In post-Confederation treaties, Treaties 1 through 10 in Western Canada, there’s a very specific right that the First Nations negotiated during the treaties that provided them with the right to demand that the government build schools for them on the reserve and provide resources for those schools. Yet this agreement says that this is not creating such a right.
Having had a quick look at the various treaties that some of the members of your education authority are party to, I don’t see an education right clearly specified in the Robinson-Huron Treaties, for example, that exist. And I see from the agreement as well as from the bill that the issue of treaty right to education was specifically exempted.
To what extent was that negotiated for or decided against? Maybe, chief, if you would like to speak to that.
Mr. Hare: I will ask Tracey O’Donnell.
Tracey O’Donnell, Anishinabek Education Negotiator, Anishinabek Nation: Meegwetch. Tracey O’Donnell. I’m from Red Rock Indian Band, and I’m the Anishinabek Nation negotiator. I’ve sat at the negotiations table with the Anishinabek First Nations since the negotiations started, so I have familiarity with the full range or scope of issues that were on the table and the discussions that were had.
I recognize that my counterparts, Murray Pridham and Peter Coon, were relatively new to the negotiations table. They weren’t there at the beginning.
However, the issue of treaties was brought forward during the beginning of these negotiations. Senator Sinclair, you’re correct; there is no education treaty right in any of the historic treaties of our 40 First Nation members.
This issue was brought forward, but under the federal negotiations policy to negotiate self-government, treaty negotiations are specifically excluded from the federal mandate. That’s under the Inherent Rights Policy. Even though some of our First Nations did raise at our negotiations table the issue of a treaty right to education, that wasn’t within the scope of the negotiations mandate for our federal counterparts. So the Anishinabek agreed to include provisions that said this agreement is not a treaty, leaving the door open for future treaty negotiations.
In response to earlier questions or comments, with respect to the 17 First Nations, a number of those First Nations didn’t outright reject the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement and say that this is a horrible agreement. What they said is that “This is an agreement that’s not for us. We are looking for a treaty-based relationship with Canada with respect to education.” So they chose not to run a ratification vote at this time. Meegwetch.
Senator Sinclair: Thank you. Looking at the agreement and the bill itself — and there’s also another agreement relating to fiscal transfer issues — I’m just wondering: Was the issue with regard to the obligation on the part of Canada to agree to the funding of construction of schools raised and negotiated and not put into the agreement for some reason?
Ms. O’Donnell: I’ll address that question as well. Education major capital — the funding to build new schools, replace existing schools or do major renovations — was brought forward by the Anishinabek First Nation throughout our negotiations over the 22 years. With the former government, we had a meeting with then Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs Bernard Valcourt on November 4, 2016. That was our last push, our effort to have major capital included as part of our negotiated arrangements. The position of Canada throughout the negotiations is that they didn’t put major capital into sectoral self-government arrangements.
At that meeting in 2000, the discussion was that Canada would consider or review an aggregate proposal on behalf of the Anishinabek First Nation with respect to major capital. That proposal was submitted, and there was no major capital funding negotiated at that time. Even as we were completing the final schedules for the Education Fiscal Transfer Agreement after our sectoral self-government agreement was signed in August of 2016, we continued to raise the question of major capital. In our view, in order to run an education system, an integral part of decision making is the decision to build new schools or to replace schools. At this time, we have an opportunity again. Canada has suggested that we contact the regional office and put together an aggregate proposal on major capital to have that reviewed and considered by Canada.
Senator Sinclair: Let me just make an observation. With your mind for detail and memory, I’m sure that Canada must have hated you as a negotiator for the Anishinabek Nation. Thank you very much for your answers.
Senator Gold: Welcome. Looking at the bill, clause 16(1) contemplates other First Nations joining the system and provides that in order to do so, they have to ratify the agreement, of course, but also have a constitution. I wonder if you could give us examples of existing constitutions of those First Nations that are already part of it. What are the core elements that you would look for in a community wishing to join? It’s a governance question, I suppose.
Ms. O’Donnell: The Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement allows for additional First Nations to join the arrangement. There are two groups of First Nations that may join. The first are the 17 Anishinabek First Nations that were part of the original negotiations. They may run a ratification vote and join this arrangement at any time, and that’s a time of their choosing.
The second group of additional First Nations that may join is any other First Nation in the province of Ontario that’s interested in becoming part of the Anishinabek Education System. In order for them to join in, they first require the approval of the Anishinabek First Nations and Canada to allow them to become part of the system.
All First Nations that are considering being part of the Anishinabek Education System and joining this arrangement are required to have a constitution. Part of the arrangement that we negotiated requires that First Nations enact education laws. In order to enact education laws, the government of the First Nation needs the power to enact laws and a law-making process. That’s recorded in the constitution. There’s a chapter in the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement that sets out the basic elements of a constitution, and every First Nation needs that constitution. It’s the citizens’ evidence of support for their government to make laws and the process by which those citizens agree laws should be made. That varies by community, and those constitutions are voted on by the citizens of the individual communities.
We know that for sure the members of those First Nations who are joining on have given their governments the authority in education to make laws and that there’s an agreed-upon process, dispute resolution, repeals and redress, and a whole bundle of other issues that are tied into law-making.
Senator Patterson: I’ve got two questions. First of all, I’d like to dig a little deeper into Senator Tannas’s questions about the 83 per cent of your students who are off-reserve. Maybe that will change with the new system. I would hope that would happen.
With the board and the interface with Canada, you have the implementation and operations committee, a high-level committee to deal with issues. Do you have a similar way of interfacing with Ontario built into the Master Education Agreement?
Ms. O’Donnell: Yes. With the Master Education Agreement we’ve negotiated with the Province of Ontario, we have a joint Master Education Agreement committee. That committee is comprised of 10 representatives. Five representatives are from the Ontario side, and they select those people themselves through internal processes. On the Anishinabek side, we have one representative from the Kinoomaadziwin Education Body, and then we have four representatives, one from each of the four regional education councils.
The committee is large, for the reason that we have a lot of work that we’re undertaking with the Province of Ontario to ensure the transferability of students between our systems and to ensure that the programming with respect to culture and language and learning opportunities for Anishinabek students who are in the provincial system are to the standards that we’ve negotiated with Ontario. We do have that committee in place. The committees themselves are being struck now and oriented in preparation for our April 1, 2018, targeted effective date.
Senator Patterson: Thank you very much. The other question is about capital. I noted you have a list in the document you submitted of information regarding the age and size of First Nation schools. I see that one school is 67 years old, and the newest school is 6 years old. There are quite a number that are 20 or 30 years old, and I’m not sure how well they’ve been maintained. I get the impression that this issue of capital was a hard-fought battle that isn’t finished yet.
No agreement is perfect, and of course we wish you every success with this. Would you say that the capital issue — renovations and replacement — is one of the key issues that you might have wished had been included in this historic agreement? I ask that because our committee does have the power to make observations.
I’m inclined to think this is a work-in-progress that may need some encouragement.
I asked the officials what are the conditions of your schools, the schools covered by this agreement. I didn’t get that question answered. So that’s my question: Is this a burning issue for the Anishinabek?
Ms. O’Donnell: Thank you, senator, for the question. The reality is that indeed major capital is one of the major issues. If we could have had major capital included, that would have made a significant difference to the Anishinabek First Nations, not only for those that have decided to move forward but for the other communities.
With the recent invitation from Canada to again put forward an aggregate proposal for education major capital, we’ve had eight First Nations come forward to say that should major capital issues be addressed, they were willing to run a ratification vote on the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement.
So it is outstanding business that we have with Canada. From the Anishinabek perspective, I can assure you that we raise that issue on an ongoing and regular basis.
The information with respect to the schools that are part of the system does tell part of the story, but what you can’t see from the words on the page or the numbers that are listed there is the actual physical buildings themselves and the state of repair. We don’t have the same amount of monies to invest in ensuring that all the schools have the broadband technology to run computer labs or the science labs, or even in some instances too it’s just the very nature of the buildings themselves; they’re in need of replacement.
So this is a critical issue for us on a moving-forward basis.
Senator Raine: Thank you very much. Congratulations for all the work that you’ve done. It must be really wonderful to see it come to fruition.
I would like, if you don’t mind, if you could sort of cast your thoughts 50 years into the future and tell us what you dream of or what your vision is for how the children in your communities will be receiving their education and what difference it will make if you then cast it back 50 years where there were still the residential schools and all the tragedies there.
If you could think forward and very shortly just paint a vision for us of what you would like to see being in place and happening to your children.
Mr. Hare: Meegwetch. I am reflecting back on my days, sitting here. I have eight grandsons. One of them goes into a municipality for his education. He just asked me the other day, on Sunday, can I come to his class and speak in my language. So I’m going to go in January. I can’t go this month. Another young child came up to me and he said, “Papa, can I stay in school after hours?”
We wouldn’t have heard those things in the 1960s. I ran away. I have no education to speak of sitting here. My education is my elders.
But I do see, moving forward today, that we can teach our kids how to save this planet. Climate change. How to recycle. All those things that the country should be doing, we are doing in small portions in our communities now, but we can do so much more once we can control our education and what we can do with the dollars.
We talked about the capital part of it. My school in my community looks awesome if you look at it driving by. Last Christmas we had a Christmas party. Literally the space that the girls over here have on that wall, to them, the piping all crashed. That’s years of — we need to fix our schools. They look nice on the outside.
Again, we just need to teach our kids to feel comfortable in the school. Once we can put our culture in the school, I know they will stay.
I have three engineers and a policeman, our four sons, and to this day, I’d like to say meegwetch, because I know the system, the colleges, they want to help, but their hands are tied too. The specific college where my boys went, they went the extra mile. I brag about that college everywhere I go. If not for them, my boys would not be where they are.
So we will and can open a lot of doors. The due diligence was done. We know what happened back there. I know where I am today. We’ve got to do it for tomorrow, though.
There’s so much we don’t have time to talk about. You know, the vision. We can sit here for hours on end. But what I see is that our kids want to stay in school. Our kids are smart, just like any other child, and they want to do it.
So just my boys alone. When I visit the communities, that will multiply in numbers. I believe that. We always think positive. Don’t think negative, because if we think that, we won’t go ahead.
I always share this. If I can and if we can learn something new today, which we are, I have something to teach tomorrow, and that will spread for us. Meegwetch.
Senator Pate: Thank you for all of your information.
Two things. I had the privilege of visiting Wiki this summer and meeting with some of the folks involved in the justice committee. You may wonder why I’m raising that when we’re talking about education. Presuming this act passes and once it’s in place, I have two questions. They’re related in my mind, but if it’s not clear how they’re related to you, please ask me for clarification.
First, what are the things you would want to negotiate next once this agreement is in place?
Second, when I was meeting with the folks involved with the justice committee, I was struck by how many resources are going into criminalizing and incarcerating young indigenous people — particularly young men, but one of the fastest-growing numbers, as you probably know, is young women — and whether there are some moves — when I had the opportunity and privilege of meeting with some women in Maori communities, they have taken monies that were being spent on criminal justice interventions, more colonial interventions, and have invested them in education in their communities.
I’m curious as to what, if anything, is happening in that regard and whether there are ways we might assist with our observations at this committee, both in terms of your ongoing negotiations, but more particularly with respect to this legislation.
Ms. Crawford: If I could speak to the second one first, I do see how that’s related.
For education, from my experience with our students, in my previous role before this, I ran a high school and an immersion school. In my high school, typically the students we would get would be the students who were not able to find success in the provincial school system.
What I’ve learned is that at the core it’s about the identity piece and what’s been taken away.
If I could just show you something. This was carved by a student. The student came in at 17 years of age with two credits — two credits which I’m sure were given to her. She came in with a lot of what I guess you would call labels — substance abuse, issues with the criminal system — and was looked at as not being able to succeed or do anything in that system of education. However, I think it also depends on how we define education because the student sat there and carved a deer bone for 14 hours. So there is a lot to be said for when students are able to connect to their identity and to their culture.
For me, the question about vision connects to that question when we’re looking in our communities. What I see for students is I want them to be able to embrace their responsibilities by way of finding their identity. I want them to be connected to land. I want them to be able to walk the talk, and I think that that is all related. I don’t think that it’s separate. Often, where everything seems to be siloed, our traditional structures aren’t siloed. It’s all related, and education is a big part of that.
I’ll let Tracey answer the negotiation piece.
Ms. O’Donnell: When we started these negotiations, we were looking at more than just education in terms of delivery from junior kindergarten to Grade 12 and what is learned in the classroom. From the Anishinabek perspective, we were looking at learning from cradle to grave, and that identity, culture, language and history are so important to us to build up that confidence in our young people in who they are and where they come from and their place. They need to know that so that they can succeed and that they aren’t involved in substance abuse issues or with the criminal system either. So we focused on another area, which is well-being, so it’s student success and well-being.
With respect to well-being, we have initiated discussions with the Province of Ontario, which is a very willing partner at this point in time, to look at early childhood development, early learning and well-being — a full range of issues, even post-secondary, which is beyond the scope of what we were able to discuss with Canada during the process we were engaged in for the 22 years.
We’ve still hopeful, and we have recently approached Canada with respect to well-being, but it’s through a different process because the scope was limited here. That was not by choice of Anishinabek. You can read that in the preamble of the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement that we did negotiate, but the terms of the agreement required both parties to agree to move forward, and that’s where we’re at. So it’s well-being and the cradle-to-grave learning that we intend to bring forward as our next issue.
Senator McPhedran: Welcome to everyone. I’ve learned a great deal from the presentations you’ve all made.
My question is a build on previous questions and your answers. Could you tell us more about the intergenerational leadership, the building of leadership, your planning for your coming generation of leaders for the follow-through on this very challenging and exciting new agreement?
Ms. Michano-Courchene: There were members from my community who started this process with some of the people around the table over 20 years ago. I only got into administration in the last nine years. I was in the classroom.
During that time, at a local level, it was the people in my community who came to me and prepared me as a member of my community for things to change. Things need to change, to get better for our students, and they worked with me at the local level to prepare me to be at those tables to advocate for a better system for our children.
At a local level they were thinking into the future, and they did that on their own behalf. It wasn’t a directive. At a more regional level, our leadership and the chiefs always had education at the forefront in their meetings, and they kept persisting that this continues.
Generation-wise, if you look into the future and reflect on what my colleagues have said, it all starts with identity. It’s an education agreement, but in reality it’s giving us more opportunity to embed that identity within the systems so that we can prepare our kids for tomorrow — our leadership for tomorrow. I’m not sure if I have answered that question. System level-wise, the REC at the regions, all the communities are at the table. They have representatives at the table, and it’s an ongoing regional committee that also feeds into the KEB level committee. Voices come right through from communities: local level, regional level and KEB level. It will continue to function that way. Meegwetch.
Senator McPhedran: I wonder if I might focus in a little bit more on my question and ask if you have in place or if you have under discussion any specific policy that is geared to building leadership in your coming generations and if you also have a policy or a practice around shared decision making with youth leaders.
Ms. Crawford: Thank you for your question. I want to speak to that on two points. First, with both agreements there was youth representation in signing the agreements.
Second, when we’re looking at our plans for pilot projects with our agreements with Ontario, there’s a youth council that will be participating in that process.
It’s important, when we’re looking at what we’re doing here, that the focus is our students, period, and not just students on reserve but also our students off reserve. With a large percentage attending provincial schools, we have to have their voice in that process for what they need moving forward. The idea is we’re going to do pilot projects in each of the regions, test them and then they would go system-wide.
Senator Raine: I think one of you mentioned that your vision was outlined in the preamble, but I don’t seem to have the preamble available. I don’t see it as part of the bill.
Ms. O’Donnell: My apologies, senators. The preamble is not in the legislation, Bill C-61. It’s the preamble to the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement. I should have been clear with respect to the source of the statements.
Senator Raine: Is that, if you like, a written vision of where you want to go with the education system?
Ms. O’Donnell: Yes. Included in the preamble is our vision of lifelong learning. Our responsibility to the seventh generation is all recorded in the preamble to the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement. I just want to note one other thing. In that preamble, the last statement says an assertion by one party does not represent the agreement of the other party.
Senator Raine: Thank you very much. Can we get a copy of that from the clerk? We are doing an ongoing study looking into the future, and that would be very nice for us to see. Thank you very much.
The Chair: On behalf of the members of the committee, I would like to thank the panel for appearing this morning and answering all the questions from the senators regarding this historic bill. We will move to clause by clause.
Before we begin clause-by-clause consideration, I would like to remind senators of a number of points.
If at any point a senator is not clear where we are in the process, please ask for clarification. I want to ensure that at all times we have the same understanding of where we are in the process.
One small point. If a senator is opposed to an entire clause, I would remind you that in committee, the proper process is not to move a motion to delete the entire clause but rather to vote against the clause as standing as part of the bill.
If committee members ever have any questions about the process or about the propriety of anything occurring, they can raise a point of order. As chair I will listen to argument, decide when there has been sufficient discussion of a matter or order and make a ruling.
Finally, I wish to remind honourable senators that if there is ever any uncertainty as to the results of a voice vote or a show of hands, the most effective route is to request a roll-call vote, which obviously provides unambiguous results. Senators are aware that any tied vote negates the motion in question.
Are there any questions on any of the above? If not, we can now proceed.
It’s agreed that we proceed.
Senator Sinclair: I have an observation or question, really, and it’s for all senators to contemplate.
If we all generally agree or if we all agree that this bill should go through as is without amendment, can we just holus-bolus agree to that, or do we have to actually go through clause by clause?
I think, from the discussions that we’ve had to this point in time, I don’t see anybody opposing any part of this bill, because it is an agreement and it’s been negotiated, and I think our obligation should be to ensure it complies with the law, which I think it does, and that we support the agreement.
The Chair: Apparently we can group everything together and collapse it all, because I don’t believe there’s any disagreement to any clauses or sections of the bill.
Senator Sinclair: I would look for the guidance of the clerk, then, as to how we would word it, but my motion would be that the committee would approve the entire bill as presented.
The Chair: We can have a motion to have an agreement to group clauses 1 to 20 as one grouping.
Senator Sinclair: Officially, I’m not a member of the committee, so I probably can’t make motions.
The Chair: You are a member. You’re an official replacement this morning.
Senator Sinclair: I am officially replacing Senator Christmas, but I wasn’t sure if you had notice of that. Thank you.
The Chair: Yes. You are officially a member.
Is that motion agreed to, that we group clauses 1 to 20?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: It’s agreed. Shall clauses 1 to 20 carry?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: It is so agreed. Shall the title carry?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Agreed. Shall the bill carry?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Agreed. Does the committee wish to consider appending observations to the report?
Senator Patterson: Madam Chair, I did have a discussion with you about the issue of capital. We had heard that this is an ongoing concern of the Anishinaabe, and they have been invited to develop an aggregate capital proposal to their regional office.
I had thought of recommending an observation to that effect, but I do understand that there will not be time to prepare and translate an observation before the Senate breaks for Christmas. Given that practicality, I will not propose that we make an observation, but as the critic for the bill, I do plan to speak on third reading to that issue.
The Chair: Thank you for that clarification.
Senator Sinclair: If I may say something as well. Senator Christmas is not going to be able to be here when it returns to the chamber, so he’s asked me to speak to it on his behalf at third reading, and I intend to do that. I intend to support the bill. I also intend to make an observation that, in my view, the agreement doesn’t go as far as it should have gone or could have gone, particularly in the area of treaty right to education and capital construction commitments.
Having noted all of that, nonetheless, this is a major step forward, and I think we should all support the bill.
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Thank you. Is it agreed that I report the bill to the Senate?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Agreed.
Thank you, honourable senators.
(The committee adjourned.)