This is page numbers 1279 - 1309 of the Hansard for the 12th Assembly, 7th Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was education.

Topics

Committee Motion 66-12(7): To Adopt Recommendation 5, Carried
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 1305

The Chair Charles Dent

It was my understanding that the committee was not going to conclude the report, but would keep it available for comment while consideration of the bill is continuing. So we will set the report aside for a minute and invite the Minister of Education to make his opening comments on Bill 25.

Committee Motion 66-12(7): To Adopt Recommendation 5, Carried
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 1305

Some Hon. Members

Agreed.

---Agreed

Bill 25: Education Act
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 1305

Some Hon. Members

Minister's Introductory Remarks

Bill 25: Education Act
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Richard Nerysoo Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I had thought about making it short, Mr. Chairman. I do want to

make a few introductory comments before we get into my original introductory remarks.

Mr. Chairman, there has been some suggestion that somehow I not take the criticisms or comments as personal. It becomes personal when people threaten you, not explicitly, but that is the reason I tabled the letters today. I do want to say clearly if you read the documents I tabled today, you would see that I take the issues personally because when a Member in this House is trying to serve the public and serve people in their interest, you take seriously the matters of correspondence in the context they are presented. While it may not necessarily be a concern to others, it does cause me personal concern because the Members of the standing committee have been extremely honourable in their approach to Bill 25. They have been absolutely constructive in all their approaches to the kinds of suggestions they have made and the amendments they have proposed. They have been honourable in terms of the way they have dealt with me and I appreciate that.

Mr. Chairman, I want to say to the Members of the standing committee, who I have had an opportunity to meet when I was dealing with Bill 25, despite the fact that we may have had some differences of opinion, in the end those issues we weren't going to get agreement on, we were able to find ways to respond to concerns that my colleagues had. You at least gave me an opportunity to articulate some of the concerns we had and we were then able to work the issues out.

Mr. Chairman, the interesting part is that this consultation process of the development of this act has been taking place for over five years now. We have sought and gathered comments, and the Standing Committee on Legislation has heard and considered the presentations of many education agencies, organizations and individuals. As a result of these hearings, we supported over 80 motions to improve the content and wording of this bill.

Both in its content and its development, Bill 25 emphasizes that education is a partnership. It gives authority to communities, and communities working together, for the delivery of schooling. It provides the flexibility we need for future constitutional development, it focuses on students and emphasizes the importance of parent participation in education.

Mr. Chairman, many people and organizations made comments on this bill. I would like to thank them, the Members of the standing committee and our staff for their efforts. I believe Bill 25 reflects the time and effort it was given. It is a very significant piece of legislation, which I am proud to present.

Mr. Chairman, I just want to say that I still have several amendments to make. I believe that we'll continue to improve the legislation, but I do want to say that, despite what criticisms may arise, I believe that Bill 25 responds to section 23 of the Canadian Charter; it responds favourably. It also responds to many of the court decisions that I've had an opportunity to read. In fact, Mr. Chairman, every other piece of legislation in this country has generally one section, with the exception of the Manitoba act which amendment their legislation to be more specific about the whole matter of Francophone education. In their particular case, it was quite clear that they had the capacity to do that. In our particular situation, there's a new situation in the north. The legislation allows us both the ability to recognize the commit?, the conseil with all its authority, and the responsibility for French language programming. It does not deal with the matter of superintendents, but that is to be left up to the commission to deal with. The conseils are in existence already. So it is clear, even in that authority, that we ensure that there is the authority necessary for the Francophone community and parents to assume the responsibility necessary.

I want to say to my honourable colleagues here, so that it's absolutely clear, that I did meet with the Francophone representatives. I indicated quite clearly that they would be involved in the development of the regulations -- that was absolutely clear in our meetings -- and that I would consult with them on the development of those regulations. I would not work in the absence of that group because it's my view that they have an important part to play and it's necessary for them to be recognized for their important role in these regulations. A letter will be going out accordingly, Mr. Chairman, so that all Members know that it is a serious commitment.

The other issue that I want to be clear about is that our agreement, several years ago, will be included in the regulations. It's my belief that the development of regulations, based on the agreement in 1992, clearly ensures that we are within the scope of section 23. In fact, we exceed what has normally been the court rulings in this country.

Despite that situation, we're prepared to work with the agreement in mind, recognizing our commitments to date. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Bill 25: Education Act
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 1306

The Chair Tony Whitford

Thank you, Mr. Minister, for those kind remarks. Does the Minister wish to bring in witnesses?

Bill 25: Education Act
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 1306

Richard Nerysoo Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Yes.

Bill 25: Education Act
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 1306

The Chair Tony Whitford

Does the committee agree that the Minister take the witness stand, that we introduce the witnesses and then go into general comments on the bill?

Bill 25: Education Act
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 1306

Some Hon. Members

Agreed.

---Agreed

Bill 25: Education Act
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Tony Whitford

Sergeant-at-arms, would you bring the witnesses in?

Good afternoon, Mr. Minister, you are surrounded by a whole host of witnesses. I think you were allowed to bring in some witnesses, not the whole department. Welcome. I'm just having some fun. Mr. Minister, would you introduce your witnesses to the committee, please?

---Laughter

Bill 25: Education Act
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Richard Nerysoo Mackenzie Delta

Thank you. Well, we would have, but there aren't enough seats in this Chamber. I appreciate the support of my colleagues. I'll start on my right, Ms. Carol Whitehouse, our legislative counsel; Gail Joyce, director of policy and planning; to my immediate left, Mr. Hal Gerein, deputy minister; Janet Grinsted, senior policy advisor;

and, Mr. Eric Colbourne, assistant deputy minister, educational development.

Bill 25: Education Act
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 1307

The Chair Tony Whitford

Thank you, Mr. Minister, and welcome everyone. It's good to see so many familiar faces again. General comments on Bill 25. The chair recognizes Mr. Pudlat.

General Comments

Bill 25: Education Act
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

June 13th, 1995

Page 1307

Kenoayoak Pudlat Baffin South

(Translation) Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just have a short comments, Mr. Chairman, it's not a question, but a comment. Mr. Chairman, I know that the Education Act took a lot of time to put together and a lot of people worked on the act. It took very long but it is completed now, and we have dealt with it in the Standing Committee on Legislation. I'm grateful to the Department of Education and to our committee and the staff who have worked very hard in dealing with this act. I congratulate the Minister and his staff.

I am grateful that the department and our committee were able to travel to the communities for hearings. We heard earlier today some concerns of Members on Bill 25 made on the floor of the House. When we went to the public hearings and heard from the people and students, we were given a lot of support. Perhaps the legislation, in it's present state, won't be approved by everyone but I feel that, by working together, we can resolve some of the concerns that are still in this legislation. I know we can't make everybody happy by dealing with every section of the act, but I was involved with the discussions of this legislation and I feel very confident that we should be able to resolve some of the concerns that the Members might still have.

These are the shortcomings that I would like to note, Mr. Chairman. I would like to thank the Minister, his staff, our staff and the committee for dealing with the legislation during the public hearing. I know this legislation will help students and education officials achieve what they want to achieve for the betterment of the people. When there has to be some amendments to the legislation later on we will be able to deal with it in the future.

This is just a comment to thank the Minister and his staff. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Bill 25: Education Act
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 1307

The Chair Tony Whitford

Qujannamiik, Mr. Pudlat. The chair now recognizes the Member for Nahendeh, Mr. Antoine.

Bill 25: Education Act
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Jim Antoine Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Chairman, I wanted to make a comment on the committee report on Bill 25. I wanted to thank the committee for travelling into my constituency and listening to the people in my constituency. There was a presentation made by a representative from each of the six communities that I represent, more so from the people in Fort Simpson. There was a good presentation made there to the committee. I'm satisfied that this committee went out to listen to the people in the communities. Just looking at the document it's obvious that this committee had done a thorough job of going out and trying to get feedback from as many people as they could in the time that they had. I would like to commend the Standing Committee on Legislation for a job well done.

Mr. Chairman, this act is a big act. It involves everybody in the north. It's going to effect how we deal with education in the north for the next decade or so, therefore, it's a very important document. Because it is a very important document, all the concerns have to be looked at and amendments have to be made to this bill. There's going to be debate on this bill for the next few days. I just wanted to make comments on a couple of items on this report.

The first one is with regard to treaty and aboriginal rights. I raised this to the committee Members in Fort Simpson and it was raised here today by other colleagues. This treaty right that I'm referring to in my constituency is Treaty 11. This has always been a concern to me, even before I was involved as a Member of the Legislative Assembly. It's a treaty that was made between a representative of the Dene and a representative of the Crown on how things should be done. It covers a number of areas and one of them is the whole area of education. It's in the treaty, it's in the preamble of the treaty. In my constituency the treaty negotiations took a number of days to be concluded.

In that whole process the understanding of the Dene in that area was that once this treaty was agreed upon, the intent of the treaty was that free education would be provided to the Dene people by the Canadian government.

The evolution of education in the north is that in the late 1960s and early 1970s, this authority was turned over to the Government of the Northwest Territories from Ottawa without the involvement of treaty people. The whole process, the transfer, the devolution happened without the involvement of the treaty people, to whom this particular program was very important. People in power at the time never saw fit to involve the chiefs and leaders of the day.

So we are dealing with this fact. One of the things that I would like to see is that this be cleared up once and for all or it's going to be with us forever. These are the questions that Chiefs in my constituency have been asking for a long time.

It's now addressed in the preamble with the amendment, but I don't think it's strong enough. I think it's going to have to be stronger than just a mention in the preamble, because what I am dealing with is the day-to-day reality that there are people who are treaty from my constituency and probably from other regions as well who are told by our elders that we have a treaty with the government, that this territorial government is an administrative arm of the federal government and therefore the authority should be flowing from the Canadian constitution.

So, that's what I am told, but when it comes to the actual day-to-day practice, there are many people coming to me saying, we thought education was a treaty right. Why am I refused funding, for example, or why am I not allowed to take this course, and why is the government not funding me to go to school, because this is what our ancestors agreed to?

So we find ourselves in a dilemma. Usually I go to the Minister, and usually I get a long letter saying why these things cannot be done. So it's a dilemma I am in. That's why I am saying that it has to be cleared up.

Perhaps it's in because of the regulations or the policies, the way they are interpreted, after a bill goes through. So this is where whoever makes the regulations and the policies has to have a clear understanding of what I am talking about. I think it's been missing. Whoever develops the regulations and the policies on how these bills are interpreted has to take that into consideration. So this is the point I would like to make.

I know the Minister is saying that we are not here to interpret what the treaty says, but the way the people in my area understand the treaty is that it was an agreement that this service would be provided to people. So I want to make it really clear here where I am coming from, that it has to be in the act one way or the other.

The answers that I have heard in the past are that this government recognizes the Canadian constitution, and section 35 of the Canadian constitution states that all existing aboriginal treaty rights will be recognized and affirmed. But when it comes to the specific bills that govern this government, it does not clearly state how section 35 flows into all our bills and how these bills and then the regulations and policies that flow from the bills, how section 35 flows through it until we get into the day-to-day practice of this government. This is where my concern is. A lot of the students in the communities don't really have a clear understanding of all the bills, for example section 35 of the Canadian Constitution, but they know they are treaty Indian and have treaties that state that education is a treaty right and it should flow from there.

If this bill is going to be in place for the next 10 years, and I understand that's the game plan, then it has to be in there and it has to be spelled out very clearly that the bill flows from section 35 of the Canadian Constitution. I'm glad, at least, that there is an amendment to the original bill and it's in the preamble, but like I'm saying, it's not strong enough. I think it should be stronger than that and it should be spelled out more.

Going on the quality and standards of education, I raised this issue in the Standing Committee on Finance. We feel that the excellence of education should be a philosophy throughout the north. I'm glad it was adopted...

Bill 25: Education Act
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 1308

The Chair Tony Whitford

I apologize to the Member, Mr. Antoine. The clock has reached 6:00 pm and our time is up. We haven't had permission to continue, so I would like to take this opportunity to thank the witnesses and the Minister for appearing before the committee. We look forward to seeing you over the next couple of days. With that, I shall rise and report to the Speaker.