The Athabasca Tribal Council in Alberta is calling on the federal government to remove two sections of the Indian Act that deal with schools and the transportation of children.
The two sections in question are 114 and 115.
According to 114 (2) of the act, “the minister may in accordance with this act, establish, operate and maintain schools for Indian children.”
Section 115 (b) says, “the minister may provide for the transportation of children to and from school.”
Mikisew Cree Chief Peter Powder says the act still grants the Canadian government the power to create residential schools.
“Look at what they’ve done until this point. Genocide, trauma, the oppression. This many things, I don’t want to list, but just look at what’s happened in the past,” he says.
Powder says the council started a petition at orangepath.ca to bring awareness and demand Ottawa immediately amend the act.
“But right now Canada still runs our schools without our consent. We want to be able to run our own schools. We want to be the one to develop the curriculum,” says Powder.
Powder says he hasn’t heard from the Canadian government yet.
“We are going to set up some meetings and I think we are going to be able to meet with the minister,” says Powder. “So I don’t have any commitments yet.”
APTN News contacted Indigenous Services about the petition.
In an emailed statement, the government says it hasn’t received the petition yet.
“Indigenous Services Canada is working with interested First Nations to develop Regional Educational Agreements that address the education goals and priorities set by First Nations under the Indian Act.”
The topic hits at a highly emotional time.
Communities near several former residential schools have announced that ground-penetrating radar has discovered, in most cases, hundreds of unmarked graves.
The federal government announced Aug. 10 that it’s offering $321 million to help communities search the former schools, help with healing and build a monument in Ottawa for the estimated 150,000 First Nation, Inuit and Metis children who attended the schools which operated for more than a century.
Powder is encouraging Indigenous Peoples and politicians to sign the petition and give power to First Nations.
“We want to empower our nations, we want to be the ones to get that going, we want to encourage all the party leaders to sign the petition,” he says.