The Athabasca Tribal Council (ATC) is proposing amendments to parts of the Indian Act relating to the operation of schools.
The ATC wants to add the phrase “the requirement of free, prior and informed consent” to two sections of the Indian Act. Section 114 authorizes Ottawa to operate and regulate schools for Indigenous children without the consent of First Nations. Section 115 has educational regulations for building standards, equipment, teaching, education, inspections and discipline.
“The Indian Act right now says that Canada still runs our schools without our consent, so we are asking the government to ask for our consent,” said Chief Peter Powder in an interview. “You look at what happened (with residential schools) and it still could happen.”
The ATC represents the Athabasca Chipewyan, Chipewyan Prairie Déne, Fort McKay, Fort McMurray #468 and Mikisew Cree First Nations. The ATC is calling their movement Orange Path and have created an online petition at orangepath.ca to gather support.
“As we shine a light on the tragic legacy of residential schools, the ATC is calling for real change and for us an important first step is the Athabasca Tribal Council Amendment,” said Karla Buffalo, ATC CEO, in a statement.
The movement is inspired by a protest started by Chief Vern Janvier of CPDFN last month. Janvier is raising awareness of the legacies of the residential schools and lobbying for changes to the Indian Act. He has literally brought his protest to the road by walking 500 kilometres from Sudbury to Parliament Hill. His supporters are scheduled to arrive in Ottawa sometime between Aug. 15 and 18.
“What happened with the residential schools carries on in different processes today with the Indian Act,” Janvier said in a July interview shortly after leaving Sudbury. “We have to make major changes to the act. That’s why we are trying to raise awareness and get support to make the move.”
Scott McLean, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort McMurray Today