Valcourt says over $1 billion available for education, but Ottawa now seeking separate deals



APTN National News
OTTAWA—Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt said Wednesday over $1 billion is still set aside for on-reserve education, but his office is now working to strike separate deals with individual First Nations.

Valcourt said in an interview with Nation to Nation host Nigel Newlove that over $1 billion in education funding is still available, but it’s tied to the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act which was rejected by chiefs last year.

“That money is associated with Bill C-33, C-33 is still in the House and the money is there. Bill C-33 won’t move unless we have the support of the chiefs but they decided not to do that,” said Valcourt. “A lot of chiefs I know across the country deplore that fact.”

When the Harper government originally unveiled the proposed bill, it linked $1.9 billion to its passing. About $500 million from the total has already been released to renovate and build reserve schools over the next five years. The government also took $160 million from the total to top up the $200 million in continuing education funding unveiled as part of the federal budget for 2015-2016 tabled Tuesday.

It appears Valcourt is no longer willing to engage in a repeat of previous national-level talks with First Nations on education. His office is now focused on securing individual agreements on First Nations education.

“We have said all along that investment would follow reform and not replace reform, so we are working with several First Nations across the country to see how we can ensure we get an education system that includes outcomes and ensure these kids are not penalized,” said Valcourt, during the interview.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde has said he wanted to establish a “proper process” between First Nations leaders and Ottawa to discuss education and access the over $1 billion still available.

“Let’s establish a proper process between government and First Nations leadership to go and access that so we can make a different in closing the gap on education,” said Bellegarde, in an interview Tuesday.

He said on-reserve schools get only $6,500 per student from Ottawa, while the provincial school system invests $10,500 per student and the French-language school system can hit upwards of $20,000 per student.

“We have to address that education fiscal imbalance,” said Bellegarde.

The full Nation to Nation interview with Valcourt will air Thursday. During the interview Valcourt responds to the controversy he triggered after using previously undisclosed RCMP statistics to support his argument Indigenous men are at fault for high numbers of murdered and missing Indigenous women.

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