APTN National News
The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador (AFNQL) is demanding additional internal documents from Ottawa linked to the controversial First Nation education bill as part of its ongoing Federal Court case against the Harper government.
The AFNQL made the request via letter on Sept. 30. The federal government has until the end of the month to respond.
The latest request follows Ottawa’s surprise filing on Sept. 10 of a previously undisclosed document which outlined the framework for Bill C-33, the First Nation Control of First Nation Education Act. The document was signed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt and former Assembly of First nations national chief Shawn Atleo.
The emergence of the document forced the AFNQL to reassess its legal strategy which led to the postponement of a planned hearing last month.
The Quebec-based First Nation organization launched its Federal Court action last February seeking a judicial review of Ottawa’s consultation process leading to the tabling of Bill C-33.
Zachary Davis, the lawyer for the AFNQL, sent the letter to Justice Canada lawyer Eric Gingras requesting four categories of documents from Ottawa. The documents requested include “discussions papers,” background explanations, analyses and policy options related to Bill C-33 and its tabling.
According to Davis’ letter, the First Nation organization is seeking documents on Valcourt’s recommendations to cabinet around the decision to table Bill C-33, the consultation process for the proposed bill and the policy behind it.
The AFNQL is also seeking documents sent to individuals outside the federal cabinet that discussed the bill, its tabling and the consultation process. In addition, the AFNQL wants all documents, including correspondence, meeting minutes and any drafts related to an agreement on Bill C-33.
Currently, the bill remains in limbo after the Assembly of First Nations chiefs voted to reject the proposed Act. The Harper government had tied $1.9 billion in funding to Bill C-33.
Chiefs rejected the bill because they felt it gave too much power to the minister over First Nation education.