Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. My office sent this question over to your office earlier today. I wanted to give you advance notice so that you can could take some action on it ahead of time.
As all honourable senators know, Bill C-33, the First Nations control of First Nations education act, has been put on hold following the resignation of former National Chief Shawn Atleo a couple weeks ago. And, as everyone knows, we passed a motion in here on the same day so that the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples could do a pre-study on the bill; we've also put that on hold.
Things have been percolating since then. The Confederacy of Nations of the Assembly of First Nations met yesterday, May 14, and is asking for a negotiated education accord and an open dialogue with the Government of Canada on First Nations education. A letter is to be sent to Minister Valcourt today.
My question is: Will the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development be willing to meet immediately with the designated representatives of the Confederacy of Nations of the Assembly of First Nations to discuss Bill C-33 and other outstanding issues?
Hon. Claude Carignan (Leader of the Government): Thank you for your question, senator.
As you know, our government has made First Nations education reform a priority. We jointly announced Bill C-33, the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act, with the support of the Assembly of First Nations, the AFN.
However, since the national chief recently resigned, all in-depth studies of the bill have been put on hold until the AFN clarifies its position. Our government firmly believes that First Nations students have the right to a high-quality education, like all other Canadians.
The First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act provides for the structures and support needed to help First Nations students realize their potential and participate fully in the Canadian economy. The bill will enshrine in law the five conditions for success identified by the AFN chiefs in December. That is our government's position on this matter.
Senator Dyck: Thank you for that answer. Certainly everything you said was true, and I agree.
However, the question I had asked was this: Would the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development be willing to meet immediately with the designated representatives of the Confederacy of Nations, which is actually an integral part of the Assembly of First Nations?
I think this initiative is intended to start conducting the dialogue and the talks before a new leader is actually elected. By the sounds of it now, a new leader of the Assembly of First Nations will not be elected until the fall. For all that time in between, we would still be on hold. This is a way to start the dialogue going.
Will the minister meet with the Confederacy of Nations of the Assembly of First Nations to start off the dialogue to get things going on this very important education bill?
Senator Carignan: Any in-depth study of the bill has been put on hold and will stay that way until the Assembly of First Nations clarifies its position. I have heard your request and your concerns and will pass them on to the minister. However, we intend to keep the study of the bill on hold until the Assembly of First Nations clarifies its position.