OTTAWA — The federal government says it has reached a self-governance agreement with 23 Ontario First Nations, the largest such deal of its kind in Canada.
The agreement with Anishinabek Nation First Nations, the culmination of more than 20 years of negotiations, grants communities greater control over education on reserve from junior kindergarten to Grade 12.
It also allows First Nations to more administrative control of funding for post-secondary education.
The deal shows the federal government's commitment to advancing self-determination for First Nations and sets the stage to inspire change in other communities, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett said Wednesday following the announcement in Chippewas of Rama First Nation.
"The evidence is clear: First Nations-led and First Nations-governed education systems, which ensure culturally appropriate and quality education, achieve better results for First Nation students," Bennett said in a statement.
First Nation communities have long sought the authority to educate their own children, said Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Wedaseh Madahbee.
"I am pleased that the Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement is finalized," he said. "This will provide the foundation of strength, hope, pride, and academic excellence for our children for generations to come."
Ottawa said the agreement also allows additional Anishinabek Nation First Nations and other communities in the province to sign on to the deal in the future.
It said the next step will be to craft and pass federal legislation to give the agreement the force of law, noting the parties will have to agree on a date for the final agreement to come into effect.
A complementary education agreement was also announced Wednesday with Ontario designed to outline the partnership between the new Anishinabek Education System and the provincially funded education system.
"This agreement, rooted in a deep commitment to meaningful reconciliation, is the first of its kind in Ontario," said Indigenous Relations Minister David Zimmer.
The agreement, however, remains conditional upon the official signing of the education self-government agreement between the federal government and participating First Nations, Ontario said.
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Kristy Kirkup, The Canadian Press