Timmins-James Bay MPP Gilles Bisson is calling for the creation of First Nation school boards across Ontario. Bisson is introducing a bill at Queen’s Park today, which he says will essentially give First Nations’ communities the choice to opt into the provincial school system. He says that is so they can benefit from the expertise the province provides and get the same level of funding that other kids get, which will help to create a level playing field.
As of right now, schools on reserves are run independently, and get about half the funding of the rest of schools in Ontario. The bill, called the Educational Amendment Act, has been in the works for about a year now. If it is passed, it will grant First Nation communities the authority to form regional school boards, as opposed to the single school model in place now. Those boards would be staffed and controlled by First Nation members, with Trustees elected from the band membership that make up each specific region.
Bisson says there have been some concerns about how this will affect Treaty Rights, but he says he has added an amendment to make sure those rights are protected. He says it gives a non-derogation clause that ensures First Nation Treaty Rights are not affected in any way.
Bisson says education on reserves leaves a lot to be desired right now, and this bill will give First Nation communities the option to choose if they want to be a part of the provincial school board system or not.