Debates of the Senate  
2nd Session, 41st Parliament, Volume 149, Issue 52
  Thursday, April 10, 2014
Speech on the Motion to conduct a pre-study of Bill C-33, First Nations Education Act

Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, I would like to say a few words about this motion. I am definitely in support of it. The idea of a First Nations education act is critically important to the welfare of First Nations across Canada, and especially to our young people. As we all know, the First Nations population is young and growing. Over half of the population is under the age of 25, and on-reserve education has not had the resources to give them an education at the same level as students who live off- reserve receive.

I think it's important for us to have a look at this bill as soon as we can so that we get a very good understanding of it and have a good chance to go into it in great detail so that it gets as close an examination as possible. It's also important to note that the various Aboriginal organizations themselves have not yet had a chance to look at the details because they weren't involved in the drafting. They will be getting a chance to see it for the first time today. They will be going through it with a fine-toothed comb and giving their opinions to us as to what they think of the bill.

With regard to our report released in 2011, when we first initiated that study, we weren't really as a whole committee thinking that we were going to recommend changes in funding. But as we conducted the study and I don't like to be partisan and as members on this side pushed and pushed and pushed, we did get that recommendation of funding into our report. There was a resistance originally, and we pushed. We pushed and pushed and as a committee we struggled with it and came to an agreement, and we included the funding. Now I am particularly glad that's in the report because in my heart of hearts, I believe that helped push the government to make the historic announcement in Stand Off, Alberta, which recommended funding.

That funding won't come into effect until 2016-17. Nevertheless, it's a step that many of us never thought we would see, so it's a good sign. I'm very much in favour of our going ahead with the pre-study so we get a chance to examine it, think about it deeply and make recommendations I hope the government will look at and, if necessary, make the necessary amendments. As I said, I'm in support of it.

One of the most important things we'll have to look at is what role the various First Nations organizations have in developing the regulations, because this is framework. There has to be a commitment to work in close association, real consultation, accommodation and collaboration in order for this to proceed. I know they will be looking for that themselves, and let's hear what they have to say.