Speech – C-61 – Third Reading
Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement Bill
December 13, 2017
Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Honourable senators, as critic, I rise today to speak briefly to third reading of Bill C-61, An Act to give effect to the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
Yesterday, in committee, we had the privilege of hearing from Deputy Grand Chief Bill Hare of the Anishinabek Nation, as well as Education Body board directors Evelyn Ball from Chippewas of Rama First Nation and Lisa Michano-Courchene of Biigtigong Nishnaabeg First Nation. They told us how the road to this point has been long and hard-fought by the Anishinabek people. We heard how, like all communities, their hope is to provide quality education to their youth and, most important, revitalize their language and culture.
We have learned from the experience of the Mi’kmaq and others that educational outcomes are greatly improved when teaching methods and the curriculum reflect the culture. That is why I’m delighted to rise today in support of this legislation.
However, I do feel I would be remiss in my duty as a member of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition by not discussing an outstanding point that I still find of concern. During second reading, I spoke in this chamber and stated that I was concerned with the lack of capital infrastructure money included in the funding agreement that accompanies this bill.
Of the schools in this district that will be covered by this act, one of them is 50 years old and many of them are 20 and30 years old. We were told that maintenance and repairs have been neglected and that the schools should be equipped for Internet and modern educational technology.
On this issue, Anishinabek’s lead negotiator told the committee that “[an] integral part of decision making should include capital infrastructure.”
She went on to tell us that this is still a point of contention for Anishinabek Nation and that they have been advised by INAC to submit an aggregate proposal for capital funding to their regional office.
So in light of that, I would like to, on the record, urge the Government of Canada to support this application. The progress that this bill will afford Anishinabek students can only be maximized if they also have proper facilities. Deputy Grand Chief Hare actually told us about a school with a wall of exposed plumbing that collapsed during a meeting. We were told that not only were schools in disrepair, but they did not have enough schools to house the children they’re hoping to educate in the communities.
I would actually have liked to have included an observation to this effect yesterday in the committee report, but I was advised at the time that, as we worked to pass this bill before we rise, there would be no time to properly draft, format and translate an observation to append. So I would like to put into the record today that major capital would have made a significant difference. In fact, we heard it was likely that up to eight of the First Nations that did not hold ratification votes to become part of this historic agreement would have taken a different position if the critical issue of capital funding had been addressed in the negotiations, agreements and in the bill.
Despite this issue, I believe that by supporting this bill and allowing the nation to take full control of their school curriculum, we will be giving the students of Anishinabek Nation the tools and opportunities they need to succeed. Thank you.