FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Please see the following written statement to the 2011 ECOSOC High Level Segment for NGOs in ECOSOC Consultative Status For 2011 Annual Ministerial Review of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and First Nations Education Steering Committee titled Implementing the Internationally Agreed Goals and Commitments in Regard to Education: First Nations Education in British Columbia, Canada
For additional information and comments, refer to the joint First Nations Leadership Council News Release of April 21, 2011, First Nations Leadership Calls on Next Federal Government to Honour Education Agreement at: http://www.ubcic.bc.ca/News_Releases/UBCICNews04211101.html
PDF COPY: http://www.ubcic.bc.ca/files/PDF/UBCICandFNESC_SubmissionECOSOC.pdf
Implementing the Internationally Agreed Goals and Commitments in Regard to Education:
First Nations Education in British Columbia, Canada
Written Statement to:
2011 ECOSOC High Level Segment for NGOs in ECOSOC Consultative Status
For 2011 Annual Ministerial Review
April 21, 2011
The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs
NGO in Special Consultative Status with
the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations
Suite 500- 342 Water Street, Vancouver, BC, V6B 1B6
Ph: (604) 684-0231; Fax: (604) 684-5726
In conjunction with
The First Nations Education Steering Committee
Suite 113-100 Park Royal South, West Vancouver, BC, V7T 1A2
Ph: (604) 925-6087; Fax: (604) 925-6097
Education Goals under the UN Development Agenda
The comprehensive United Nations Development Agenda is intended to be an internationally shared framework on development-for action at the global, regional, and country levels, and includes a specific focus on education-related goals and objectives.[i] This written submission from the Union of BC Indian Chiefs[ii] in conjunction with the First Nations Education Steering Committee[iii] analyzes the key challenges affecting the achievement of the internationally agreed goals and commitments as set out in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) related to education in the British Columbia (BC), [iv] Canada context. This submission also considers recommendations and proposals for action to accelerate the implementation of education-related objectives in the BC context, and larger international implications.
First Nations Education in British Columbia, Canada
First Nations people in Canada have experienced a long history of oppression that included the use of education as an institutional means to assimilate First Nations children. Today, there are over 130 First Nations-controlled schools in BC, designed to give students a strong foundation in our languages and cultures and prepare them to thrive in contemporary society. The need to promote greater success for First Nations students in BC, Canada is widely acknowledged, but there remains a considerable gap between the achievement of First Nations and non-First Nations students at all levels of the education system.[v] In 2006, First Nations in BC successfully concluded jurisdiction agreements with the provincial and federal governments that provide a legal foundation for the recognition and implementation of First Nations jurisdiction for education in BC on reserve.[vi] Five years later, the Government of Canada still has not offered funding that will let us implement that authority.[vii]
Analysis of UNDRIP Educational Commitments for BC First Nations
The Government of Canada endorsed the UNDRIP on November 12, 2010, and by doing so, endorsed internationally recognized commitments pertaining to education. This includes
Article 14(1), which sets out that “Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.”
The UNDRIP clearly advocates for the self-determination and control of Indigenous peoples over their education; however, in order to achieve these educational goals, states must also follow through with any commitments to ensure necessary capacity. The UNDRIP provides in Article 37, that “Indigenous peoples have the right to the recognition, observance and enforcement of treaties, agreements and other constructive agreements concluded with States or their successors and to have States honour and respect such treaties, agreements and other constructive agreements.”
In the BC First Nations context, Canada only partially fulfilled UNDRIP commitments to education in passing the First Nations Jurisdiction over Education Act in 2006, although this act and the associated provincial First Nations Education Act did formalize commitment of both governments to recognize the jurisdiction of First Nations over kindergarten to Grade 12 education on reserve. When negotiating the First Nations education jurisdiction agreements, the Government of Canada promised adequate funding for implementation. To date, the government’s funding offer does not reflect comparable funding for our First Nations schools, resources for language and culture, or resources for technology; therefore, full implementation of our education jurisdiction has not been possible.
Canada should be acknowledged for its recognition of First Nations jurisdiction over our own education in BC. However, in order to accelerate the implementation of First Nations education-related objectives in the BC context, the Government of Canada must fully live up to its commitments under the UNDRIP, including upholding promises made regarding adequate funding for the education jurisdiction agreements. Only then, will we be able to actually achieve and implement our full jurisdiction.
In the international context, the Economic and Social Council of the UN should work to establish a comprehensive framework to assess implementation of international commitments and agreements pertaining to education. Effective design could answer the questions of “what does full implementation look like, and why is full implementation necessary?” A comprehensive framework could also include positive mechanisms for evaluating implementation by states, with substantial supporting materials and fiscal considerations and analysis.
[ii] UBCIC works with our members to develop common strategies to defend Aboriginal Title and Rights in legal and political forums, and advocates for the recognition, affirmation and protection of Aboriginal Title and Rights at the provincial, national and international levels. UBCIC is guided by the principle that Indigenous Peoples possess the inherent right and responsibility to care for and protect our traditional lands and resources, to govern ourselves, and to enter into relationships with other Nations of Peoples, guided by our own laws and legal traditions.
[iii] Almost two decades ago, First Nations in BC created the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC). FNESC (www.fnesc.ca) is a First Nations controlled, provincial-level organization with a mandate to promote quality educational opportunities for all First Nations learners in BC. FNESC undertakes research, promotes networking and information sharing opportunities, and establishes a common voice for First Nations for policy development and discussions with government and other education stakeholders
[iv] BC has 203 distinct “Indian Bands,” commonly referred to as First Nations communities. First Nations people, historically referred to as “Indians” and later as “Native people” of Canada, are the people who trace their ancestry to the original inhabitants of Canada – that is, Canada’s Indigenous peoples. The term Indian is generally used only in an official and legal sense. The term Aboriginal people officially refers to all First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people. The Canadian Constitution includes references to Aboriginal rights.
[vi] For details about the First Nations education jurisdiction agreements achieved in BC, visit www.fnesc.ca and follow the link to “Jurisdiction”
[vii] First Nations schools in BC have faced years of underfunding. Our schools receive approximately 17% less tuition funding from the federal government than the funding provided by the provincial government to public schools. The gap would be about 30% without the temporary supplemental funding that is in place.