APTN National News
OTTAWA–A blue ribbon panel is expected to soon begin studying ways to improve on-reserve education with a report and recommendations on their findings expected sometime in the middle of 2011, Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan said Thursday.
The Assembly of First Nations will be involved in the development of the panel’s mandate and the appointment of its members who will be named early in 2011.
“Today, I am announcing that our government is creating an expert panel to look at options, including legislation, to improve K to 12 outcomes,” said Duncan, in the House of Commons during question period.
AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo said the creation of the panel was the answer First Nations leaders, students and community members were looking for.
“We do not need or want a lengthy study. We need action now,” said Atleo. “Improving First Nations education is a top priority for First Nations leadership right across the country as affirmed by our assembly almost exactly one year ago.”
First Nations leaders actually demanded former Indian Affairs minister Chuck Strahl commit to investing at least $1.5 billion into First Nations education to reduce the gap between First Nations on-reserve students and students under provincial jurisdiction.
“We are not begging, we will move forward one way or another. We will do what has to be done,” said Kitigan Zibi Chief Gilbert Whiteduck, at the time.
Strahl said he would work with the chiefs, and it appears, the creation of a panel to study the issue next year is the government’s response.
The panel will hold hearings across the country to listen to the views of First Nations leaders, parents, students, elders, teachers, provinces and “all those with an interest and a view on how to enhance the education system and outcomes of First Nations learners,” said a statement from Indian Affairs.
Duncan was not available for an interview.
The Indian Affairs statement said Duncan and Atleo would also receive a progress report on the panel’s work.