MPP [Gilles Bisson] says swap with feds would help First Nations – by Ron Grech (Timmins Daily Press – February 3, 2012)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

Growing dissatisfaction with Ottawa’s management of schools on First Nations has spurred growing support for the province taking over the responsibility, says MPP Gilles Bisson (NDP — Timmins-James Bay).

“When it comes to education (on reserves), the current federal education system is a complete failure,” said Bisson, a long-time advocate for the idea. “Kids who finish Grade 12 (on First Nations) are at a level that is three to four years behind their counterparts outside of the reserve system.

“When I first started raising this issue, most people on reserve would have disagreed with me. Now, I would say there is a majority of people who are saying this is not a bad idea.”

Bisson said he has been sharing his thoughts on the issues with chiefs, band council members and First Nation education authorities throughout the region.

He is convinced the Ontario government is better equipped to manage education on First Nations.

“The problem with the federal system is that the federal government is not involved in education, so they don’t have a ministry of education as we do at the provincial level, and they don’t have school board,” he said.

“I have long argued and that argument is now starting to get some traction, that we should enter into discussions — the province along with First Nations and the federal government to transfer education over to the province, and create Aboriginal school boards the same way we have francophone boards.”

Stan Louttit, grand chief of Mushkegowuk, acknowledged there is some dissatisfaction with the federally run system of education on First Nations. However, he said communities have not reached a point where there is a unanimous call for the province to take over the responsibility.

“There is dissatisfaction in the sense of the old policies and formulas that governments use; dissatisfaction in the sense that since 1994 there has been a cap on post-secondary education,” said Louttit. “I had an initial discussion about that with Gilles, but it’s not something that that Mushkegowuk chiefs have formally discussed or provided direction on.

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