Friday, April 11, 2014

Open Letter to Saskatchewan Chiefs and Councils

March 11, 2014

Dear Chiefs and Councils,

Yesterday, Minster Bernard Valcourt tabled the First Nations Control of First Nation Education Act.  If you didn’t have time to read it yourself, here a few highlights:

It begins with a lot of preamble giving acknowledgment for the needs of our First Nation students, but the following opening statement misses the mark right away with this: Whereas First Nations children attending schools on reserves must have access to elementary and secondary education that allows them to obtain a recognized high school diploma and to move between education systems without impediment… What’s missing from this statement is “equitable access", without the word “equitable” the government does not have to ensure that all First Nation students are given the same access to education no matter where they live. This is an important distinction because it means students living in Fond du Lac may not be given the same opportunities to access education due to their remoteness as a student from Muskoday that is just outside Prince Albert.
The second highlight is the purpose statement:  The purpose of this Act is to provide for the control by First Nations of their education systems by enabling councils of First Nations to administer schools situated on their reserves, to delegate that power to First Nation Education Authorities or to enter into tuition or administration agreements in accordance with this Act. Last time I checked, we had treaty which recognized us as a Nation, not within a nation, but a nation that reported to the Crown and lateral to the Government of Canada, not underneath. The establishment of First Nation Education Authorities infringes on our jurisdictional right to self-govern because it is being imposed through a legislative act.

Further to that, this Act excludes those regions that have entered into their own agreements for self-government through an Act of Parliament.  Section 5: This Act does not apply to (a) a First Nation that has the power to make laws with respect to elementary and secondary education under an Act of Parliament or an agreement relating to self-government that is given effect by an Act of Parliament, including a First Nation that is named in the schedule to the Mi’kmaq Education Act or the schedule to the First Nations Jurisdiction over Education in British Columbia Act; or (b) the Sechelt Indian Band established by subsection 5(1) of the Sechelt Indian Band Self-Government Act. This clearly excludes our Saskatchewan First Nations.

Then Section 43 (2) The methods of calculation must allow for the provision under sections 32 and 33 of services to each First Nation school and to persons referred to in section 7 attending such a school that are of a quality reasonably comparable to that of similar services generally offered in a similarly sized public school that is regulated under provincial legislation and is located in an analogous region. This means that our First Nations must provide the same level of service as a neighbouring provincial school of a similar size, yet may receive more funding to provide those services. I use the word service, but I think we need to careful with that word, because we offer education and learning opportunities, not a service.  The word “service” is a business or industrial term that moves our primary purpose away from what we do with our students, which is educating them for lifelong learning.

The other issue here is that they are limiting the classes, services etc. to the same level as the neighbouring provincial school.  These rural provincial schools are often no better off than the First Nation school.  They cannot attract teachers or provide all the classes and opportunities a student needs either.  What we need to ensure is equitable access to classes, supports and opportunities, similar to urban school divisions.

The final highlight comes from Section 48 (3) The regulations may incorporate by reference laws of a province, as amended from time to time, with any adaptations that the Minister considers necessary. (4) The regulations may vary from province to province. This section suggests that provincial laws can be, by reference, transferred to and enforced on First Nations. I believe we have the ability to establish our own regulations that are equal or superior to the Province, because from a First Nations worldview, we believe in educating the whole child, “mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual.” Not even the province can do this. But more importantly, they don’t have jurisdiction over our First Nations treaty territory.

So that brings me to our need for help from you, as Chief and Council. At Credenda, we are equally as concerned as you about the educational needs of our students. We have offered courses and classes to First Nation students all across the province who did not have equitable access to course offerings at the local school level.  We were able to have this paid for by AANDC. Now they want to suggest that we are a service provider that does not qualify for core funding.  So who loses again? The students!  Credenda students have a 74% success rate, so they have demonstrated that they can achieve. We have offered 4900+ credits to students since 2005. That is a lot of students getting the necessary courses and credits to supplement their high school program and graduate.

We have been contacting other Chief’s and Councils across the region asking for their support in signing a BCR in support of our program. The AANDC RDG, Anna Fontaine, told us that if we have the support of our First Nations, they will reconsider our funding situation. AANDC wants to cut off our funding and have us establish service agreements with each First Nation and First Nation Educational Authority and have them pay for the classes. But AANDC will not be providing more money to the First Nations to cover these costs. So they are ripping us all off once again.

I’m supplying you with a BCR of Support that has been prepared in advance by us outlining the challenges. We stand with you in this fight for our rights, and we are asking you for your help.


Vincent Hill
Executive Director

Link to Bill C 33

BCR of Support

WHEREAS: Credenda Virtual High School is a provincially accredited online First Nation educational institution with charitable organization status; 

AND WHEREAS: Credenda has received approximately $12M in funding from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) since 2005 as part of the New Paths for Education strategic plan for long term investment in education, which has been showing significant results;

AND WHEREAS: Credenda has offered over 4900 student classes to First Nation students across Saskatchewan since 2005 with an average success rate of 75% (low of 68%, high of 83%);

AND WHEREAS: The proposed First Nation Control of First Nation Education Act, scheduled to be introduced into legislation September 2014, has been delayed until 2016;

AND WHEREAS: based upon the upcoming proposed First Nation Control of First Nation Education Act, AANDC has unilaterally determined to terminate Credenda’s funding agreement as of June 2014 and is subsequently requiring First Nations to pay directly for classes; 

AND WHEREAS: No additional funds are being redirected to First Nations to accommodate such costs until after 2016, adding additional costs on top of the shortfall First Nations education is already currently experiencing;

AND WHEREAS: Academic achievement would be impacted negatively creating a wider gap from an already low national graduation rate of 39% among First Nation students (compared to 88% nationally for all students); 

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THATCredenda receive continued funding from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada as per their prior Contribution Funding Agreements (CFA’s) of 2011 - 2013 in order to continue to operate.


WHEREAS: Credenda Virtual High School was first created in 2005 to address the shortage of math, science, and literacy subjects, with accredited, certified teachers able to deliver the necessary courses to northern Saskatchewan First Nations students;

AND WHEREAS: It is abundantly clear the shortfall does not only exist in the maths, sciences, and literacy areas, but in all areas, including the humanities and other core Saskatchewan courses;

AND WHEREAS: The 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 Credenda Contribution Funding Agreements made provision to fund all classes at the Grade 7-12 levels due to the ever existing and increasing need;

AND WHEREAS: The Saskatchewan Regional Office of AANDC unilaterally developed and imposed the VIRTUAL HIGH SCHOOLS MANAGEMENT REGIME for 2013-2014, changing how Credenda was funded and restricting funding to only the maths, sciences, and literacy;

AND WHEREAS: All First Nations students, regardless of where they are located, deserve equitable access to courses and resources to ensure their success as they move forward in life;

AND WHEREAS: AANDC, through various means, funds other virtual high schools across Canada (Wapaskwa Virtual Collegiate in Manitoba, Kewaytinook Internet High School in Ontario, SC Cyber in Alberta);

AND WHEREAS: AANDC does not restrict the funding for other virtual high schools to only maths, sciences and literacy classes;

AND WHEREAS: Credenda Virtual High School is a provincially accredited online First Nation school with charitable organization status; 

AND WHEREAS: All courses offered by Provincial and First Nations accredited schools are funded without restrictions or exceptions; 

AND WHEREAS: To date in 2013-2014, Credenda has offered over 300 classes, without funding, to First Nation students in need of courses that fell outside of the AANDC approved subjects areas;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THATwe request that Credenda, as a First Nation school, be funded by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada for ALL classes provided as per prior Contribution Funding Agreements, as the other virtual high schools are funded and as other First Nation and Provincial schools are funded.


Manifesting Virtues ~ Day by Day said...

You are a true leader and education is the most important work on the planet. How will we ever reach peace without a way to support one another. How will we teach our kids to understand and practice justice if we don't give them the best examples to follow. How will they truly know their worth if they have to fight for every dollar that supports them.

Thank You Vince for caring so deeply about the youth of your community. I Hope you find the support you need.

Vince Hill said...

Thank you for your encouragement. Much appreciated.