ONE of the key cornerstones in moving forward from the federal Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s revelations of the effects of residential schools is improving access to education for aboriginal young people.
For all of the criticism laid against the federal Conservative government for any number of real or perceived actions, it did prepare legislation offering up an additional $1.9 billion to do just that for on-reserve schools.
In this, credit must be given to Shawn Atleo, the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. From B.C., Mr. Atleo was first elected in 2009 and again in 2012. Educational opportunity was – and remains – a passion of Mr. Atleo who found enough common ground to support the proposed legislation.
Yet political infighting within the assembly over perceived problems with the legislation soon focused on Mr. Atleo who resigned in May 2014, saying, in part, he wasn’t prepared to be a “lightning rod distracting from the kids and their potential.”
Whether there were actual problems with the legislation or whether the situation was exploited by Mr. Atleo’s opponents is up for debate.
When Mr. Atleo resigned the federal government said the legislation would remain on hold until it had the backing of the assembly.
The federal election this fall presents another opportunity to revisit the issue. And to remember what the goal is about in the first place.