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.

Transcript for First Nations Education Council Regional Education Agreement

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On July 14, the First Nations Education Council, its 22 member communities in Quebec, and Indigenous Services Canada announced a historic Regional Education Agreement that will advance First Nations control over education for almost 5,800 students.

Leaders spoke to us about the significance of this agreement.


Kahnawake Survival School

Harry Rice, Member of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke:

"We do have a fine education system here in Kahnawà:ke, and the other First Nations also, but it gives us the leeway to expand and give the proper certifications to teachers if needed if they don't already have them. Then, they are able to acquire them and to work with special needs students, one of the big priorities here in Kahnawà:ke. We try to give as much as possible, but the funding wasn't there, and the resources weren't there. So, this gives us the opportunity to reach out to that and be able to achieve what we are looking for."

Ghislain Picard, Regional Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Quebec-Labrador:

 "First, it will enable them to get back to school, which has been a real challenge for all of our communities. It will also allow our students to expand their horizons in terms of their learning and open up a path that has been limited until now. This is great news, but clearly more needs to be done."

Denis Gros-Louis, Director General of the First Nations Education Council:

 "What's going to fundamentally change is the curriculum and all the teachers' work. They will have the financial tools to provide students with a safe learning environment that will have all the possible options to learn their language, learn their culture, work with Elders, and work with parents. That's 600 new education professionals who will come in and build on all the efforts of the past 30 years. Now we're taking charge, taking responsibility, and leading our young people towards greater academic success."

Harry Rice:

"For those of you who don't know, this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the movement for First Nations control over First Nations education."

Hon. Patty Hajdu, Minister of Indigenous Services:

"You've always known how to teach your children. You've always known how to lead your communities. And you've had so much interference through a colonial partner that has not lived up to its commitments over generations. And our government wants to change that. And our job now, as a partner in reconciliation, is to be fair, to live up to the spirit and intent of our long-standing agreements, and to get out of the way, so Indigenous communities can lead and can determine for themselves how the future looks for their next generations."

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"The signing of the agreement is the completion, after more than 35 years, of the founding members' vision. It clearly demonstrates the expertise and determination of education professionals from the 22 FNEC member communities."

Denis Gros-Louis, Director General of the First Nations Education Council
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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:

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:

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