Six Nations Chief Ava Hill talks about FNEA

Ava Hill’s first actions as the new Elected Six Nations Band Council chief are already underway. “The first order of business is already kind of started, right now we are doing a lot of work with other First Nations on fighting this First Nations Education Act (FENA).” says Hill.

The Act, is the newest piece of legislation the Harper government is trying to enforce upon First Nations communities in Canada. Hill attended a conference with the Chiefs of Ontario last week and took part in a press conference where First Nations communities unanimously spoke against the proposed FNEA, and declared that if it is pushed through parliament they will refuse to implement it. First Nations leadership from across the country have come together in solidarity to reject the proposed Act, which is expected to be read in parliament early 2014.

The Act proposes that schools in First Nations communities will be federally run until they are approved by the Minister, at which point control will be handed over to the band council. Hill said, “The overall gist of it is that the minister is still maintaining a lot of control. What is says in there is that the schools will remain under federal authority. They are going to continue to administer them. So we need to have a discussion in this community about whether we are going to take them over.”

“What it always comes down to is funding. They’re not going to provide the funding.” Hill says. “There’s not adequate funding now. So why would we take over a system that’s not working now?”

Hill said the proposed FNEA is vague at best about funding the program. “There is a little sliver in there about funding, and all it says is that funding will be determined after the Act is passed. And that means it will be regulations made by the Minister with our input…and you know what they mean when they say our input.”

“We’ve really got to join together and block this. We want to use the media.” As many have seen in the past however, mainstream media coverage has traditionally been less than accurate when it comes to covering news here at Six Nations.

Hill was approached by a number of broadcasters and gave them a clear message. “I said, ‘we’ll work with you but you guys have to portray our stories accurately. Harper has unlimited funds to go out and talk to the mainstream media and put his spin on things, but when we put our spin on things you guys don’t pick it up.’ So I said, ‘we’ll give you information but you have to put our stories out there accurately.’”

People are gathering across the province to voice their opposition to the FNEA. Hill said, “We’re having a rally. Its on Wednesday December 4th at 11am at Indian Affairs [in Brantford]. We’re also having a community meeting on the 5th. The Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians and AIAI is organizing rallies in Toronto, a big rally at Indian Affairs and they’ve asked us to do simultaneous rallies.”

A community meeting will be held December 5th at Six Nations Polytech to inform and educate the community on what the federal government is proposing and what they can do to voice their opinions.

“I’ve got an analysis its quite lengthy but there will be copies available at the community meeting. Were also going to have a generic letter that people can send or email to the federal government, and to Phil McColeman who is the conservative MP for this riding.”

“We also have some postcards available that the Chiefs of Ontario have done up saying we oppose it that you can send to the Prime Minister that people can just sign and throw in the mailbox. If it goes to the House of Commons it doesn’t need stamps.”

If you are unable to attend the meeting the materials will be available on the Two Row Times website, with links to email the House of Commons to oppose the FNEA.

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