Governance & Education Jurisdiction
Our people have always had the authority to make decisions regarding their own governance and education, but the Government of Canada currently does not acknowledge our authority. Instead, our First Nations are controlled by legislation called the Indian Act.
NAN and the Government of Canada are negotiating self-governance agreements in sectors. The first being negotiated is Education Jurisdiction.
In 1997, Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Chiefs-in-Assembly debated whether to enter into discussions with Canada to move out from under the current Indian Act governance using 1995, Inherent Rights Policy. In 1998, NAN Chiefs-in-Assembly passed Resolution 98/75: NAN Gov-Ed Framework Agreements, which mandated the NAN Executive Council to enter discussions with Canada on this matter on behalf of First Nations of NAN.
The Chiefs-in-Assembly provided a mandate to establish a NAN Education Committee (NANEC) and the Executive Council and NAN Elders, were to help guide the process. The NANEC is made up of NAN Chiefs and representatives from Tribal Councils and Independent First Nations.
The goal of self-governance arrangements between NAN First Nations and the Government of Canada is recognition and respect for our jurisdiction.
From the day our ancestors signed Treaty No. 9 and Treaty No. 5, our people have maintained the position that we have never relinquished our governance or our jurisdiction. We maintain that we only agreed to live in peaceful co-existence with non-native people. This is our foundational belief in our relationship with the Government of Canada.
The self-governance negotiations are about developing instruments that will lead to government recognition of First Nation jurisdiction. Through the Final Agreement, fiscal arrangements and implementation are ways in which Canada will recognize and respect our right of self-determination in areas that directly impact our everyday existence in homes and communities.
Stages of the Negotiation Process:
- Framework Agreement – completed and signed in 1999, it sets out the agenda for Agreement-in-Principle negotiations
- Agreement-in-Principle (AIP) –completed and signed in December 2018, it sets out the full agenda for final agreement negotiations
- Final Agreement – details of Education Jurisdiction will be worked out, including implementation and a new funding agreement and each community member will vote on whether the First Nation should sign the final agreement
The Canadian Parliament must pass a law to implement the Final Agreement and lift the application of the Indian Act on education.
First Nations that sign the Final Agreement will create their own governing education structure system and will have recognized jurisdiction as well as decision-making authority regarding Education Jurisdiction. Upon signing the agreement, governing policies and sections of the Indian Act will no longer apply.
Negotiations have been put on hold and will resume once the House of Commons resumes following the 2019 federal election.
It is essential that First Nation members of NAN understand the process and stay up-to-date to ensure informed decisions can be made on the Final Agreement.
First Nation Governance & Inherent Rights
First Nation Governance is a path of self-determination. First Nation Governance is based on Indigenous peoples’ inherent right to self-determination. The inherent right was given by the Creator and has always existed. First Nation Governance is rooted in the principles of sovereignty, Indigenous rights, and treaty rights. First Nation Governance is articulated in the NAN Declaration of Rights and Principles.
NAN has undertaken a series of initiatives aimed at giving it’s First Nations more control over the matters that affect them. The goal of these First Nation Governance strategies is to strengthen and empower all the First Nations of NAN.
The Mandate for Nation-Building at NAN:
In 1997, NAN Chiefs-In-Assembly mandated the Executive Council to enter into a sectoral negotiation process with Canada to:
- Establish and carry out negotiations on behalf of the First Nations of NAN with the Government of Canada under the federal Inherent Right Policy;
- Negotiate jurisdiction in several areas including, but not limited to, governance, education, justice, economic development, social services, and health. Currently, NAN is negotiating in Education Jurisdiction. Other sectors to be negotiated will be added later.
It is important to note that First Nations are not making a commitment to exercise self-governance just by participating in this process. Each NAN First Nation will decide for itself whether it wishes to remain under the Indian Act or be governed by any self-governance agreements negotiated. A First Nation is able to participate in all sectoral negotiations process and still decide they do not want to sign the Final Agreement.
Stage 1: Framework Agreement
In 1997, NAN Chiefs-in-Assembly passed resolutions to begin the process of Governance (Resolution 97/03) and Education Jurisdiction (Resolution 97/11) negotiations with Canada to begin separate framework agreements. On December 3, 1998, the NAN Chiefs in Assembly passed Resolution 98/75, mandating the NAN Executive to finalize and sign the Framework Agreements on Governance and Education. The Framework Agreements outline a commitment to negotiate and are not legally binding. It basically says that NAN and the Government of Canada are committed to discussing governance options, developing work-plans, and a mandate to negotiating Agreements-in-Principle. This stage essentially involves laying out the agenda for what will be discussed in the negotiations. Framework agreements for Governance and Education Jurisdiction were signed by NAN and the Government of Canada on October 16, 1999.
Stage 2: AIP
The AIP is a very important stage which involves working out the full range of issues to be covered in the Final Agreement. The Education Jurisdiction Agreement-in-Principle detail all elements of the Final Agreement, such as the funding distribution, scope of authority, accountability, timing, and the roles of NAN, Tribal Councils, individual First Nations, and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. If something is not included in the AIPs, it will not be addressed in the Final Agreements. The AIP limits the scope of the Final Agreement. Because of this, it was critical that the AIP created, are as comprehensive and detailed as possible so that nothing is left out of the Final Agreement. The final draft Agreement-in-Principle for Education Jurisdiction was supported by the NAN Chiefs-In-Assembly on June 2018, and the Final Agreement-in-Principle for Education Jurisdiction was initiated and signed on December 2018.
Stage 3: Final Agreement
During this stage, the parties discuss how things will be administered under a self-governance agreement. It will include a funding agreement and an implementation plan. This is the final version of the agreement and is based on the Agreement-in-Principle and will include everything from the AIP.
Stage 4: Final Agreement Community Ratification
Once an Education Jurisdiction Final Agreement is reached, community consultation will be coordinated with each NAN First Nation, informing community members about the Final Agreement in detail so that everyone understands what is being agreed to in order to ensure informed consent. Informed consent will be ensured by holding community and Tribal Council information meetings, distributing background packages and information bulletins, and through media releases. The Final Agreement will be approved or rejected by each First Nation. Those that sign will be bound by the Education Jurisdiction self-governance Agreement and will no longer operate under the sections of the Indian Act that pertain to Education. Those that do not sign will continue to be governed by the Indian Act. Once approved by the First Nations, it will then go to Parliament in the form of legislation for ratification. The Final Agreement is legally binding.
Stage 5: Pre-Implementation Activities
During this stage, the First Nations that supported and signed the Final Agreement, as represented by NAN, will set up a government according to the government structure established in the Final Agreement. Law-making will be a part of this stage.
Stage 6: Implementation
The implementation stage is the final stage of the process and involves the exercise of laws and jurisdiction.