Education: A historic agreement for 22 First Nations communities in Quebec
First Nations Education Council Regional Education Agreement
Building for the next seven generations: First Nations Education Council Regional Education Agreement.
Grand Chiefs and Chiefs of the 22 member communities of the First Nations Education Council (FNEC) and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) signed a historic regional education agreement on July 14, 2022, in Kahnawà:ke.
The agreement funds a system designed entirely by the FNEC's member communities and its secretariat. For nearly 5,800 students from kindergarten to high school, it represents a better chance of thriving at school.
A rigorous process
It took nearly 10 years of research and analysis to reach this agreement. Indeed, the FNEC first conducted a comprehensive assessment of the real needs of First Nations students. This assessment takes into account the cultural, linguistic, social and geographic circumstances of the communities. The FNEC also identified barriers to student success, including:
lack of consistent education funding for communities
a significant increase in the number of students registered in the First Nations registry
provincial education system not responding to community priorities and vision
the high labour shortage in schools
Using the data collected, the FNEC and its secretariat were able to develop a financial proposal that formed the basis of negotiations with the department.
When negotiation is reconciliation
Denis Gros-Louis, Director General of the FNEC, believes that the success of these negotiations depends on the willingness of the parties involved to work in a true spirit of reconciliation.
For ISC, this meant listening and being flexible, recognizing FNEC's expertise and following its recommendations.
"In my career, this was the first time I had seen an Indigenous organization explain its substantive work to the federal government, and the federal government accepted that First Nations were further along in their analyses than the department," says Gros-Louis, happy with the positive environment in which the negotiations took place.
A new chapter
What Gros-Louis takes away from this process is the testimony of hope he heard during the signing ceremony of the agreement. Knowing that the work being done will allow Indigenous students to thrive in a school system that reflects them, meets their needs and helps preserve their language and makes him proud.
The agreement in brief
Approximately $1.1 billion over 5 years is being provided to help communities create strategies to increase student achievement.
Among other things, the agreement will:
implement a culturally appropriate school program
improve funding for school transportation
recruit and retain over 600 professionals in education and other specializations
improve student success
increase student retention and high school graduation rates
restore control and ownership of education funding by and for communities