APTN National News
The infrastructure funds for First Nation schools announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper Monday matches the amount put on ice by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt after chiefs rejected the government’s education bill.
Harper announced $500 million for First Nation schools in London, Ont., Monday as part of a larger $5.8 billion promise of infrastructure investment for projects across the country.
The Prime Minister’s Office provided few details about the $500 million in its media release package and did not return requests for clarification from APTN National News.
The $500 million amount, however, matches the number included in the Feb. 7 announcement by Harper, Valcourt and former Assembly of First Nations national Chief Shawn Atleo when they unveiled the First Nation Control of First Nation Education Act (FNCFNEA).
The announcement came with a promise of $1.9 billion for First Nation education to accompany the bill’s passage. The total envelope included $500 million over seven years, beginning in 2015, for First Nation schools.
The total package, however, was put on hold after AFN chiefs voted to reject the proposed education bill.
First Nation chiefs responded by demanding the government release the education funding which is desperately needed in First Nation communities across the country.
Valcourt’s office, however, said there would be no money unless the proposed education bill became law.
“We will not invest new money in an education system that does not serve the best interest of First Nation children,” said Valcourt’s office in a statement released in May. “Funding will only follow real education reforms.”
Valcourt’s office did not respond to requests for comment on whether the money announced by Harper is the same money announced in February and then tied to passage of the rejected education bill. A spokesperson referred questions to the PMO.
Harper’s announced First Nation school funding also follows the revelation that the federal Aboriginal Affairs department has been using money destined for infrastructure to shore up its social program.
The Canadian Press reported the department had diverted about $550 million over the past six years from infrastructure to social programs. The report was based on a 22 page document filed as part of a human rights complaint against Ottawa over its alleged underfunding of child and family services on reserves. The complaint was filed by Cindy Blackstock, with the First Nation Child and Family Caring Society.