Frequently Asked Questions

There are lots of questions being asked by communities, leadership, educators, parents and other stakeholders about the Jurisdiction process.

How does my community participate?

If your community wishes to consider assuming jurisdiction over K-12 education on-reserve, then please complete and send in a BCR. Click here to view sample BCR wording.

If your community would like more information on jurisdiction over First Nations education and/or would like to invite someone to speak to your Chief and Council, parents, students, educators and the community at large, please email: info@fnesc.ca

Who will be affected by Jurisdiction?

Will all First Nations be affected by the jurisdiction agreement?
No. Only First Nations choosing to opt in by submitting a Band Council Resolution will be involved.

First Nations believe in lifelong learning, why is the agreement only for jurisdiction over K-12?
At the outset of the negotiations it was agreed that jurisdiction over education must cover lifelong learning, however, in order to focus the negotiations it was agreed that there would be a phased approach to the negotiations. The first phase would cover K-12 and the second and third phases would address Early Childhood Development and Post Secondary education and training.

Who has the jurisdiction over education under this agreement?
Chief and Council of each participating First Nation hold the jurisdiction.

Why do we want to change something that is working?
We are trying to make it fit into structures, such as societies, that were never designed for operating an education system. Under education jurisdiction, we can establish our own entities that are designed to govern education.

What is in it for us? What are my kids and grandkids going to get out of this?
Some of the benefits are highlighted in the community presentation, and include the establishment of community-tailored education systems that meet the specific needs of our learners. Other benefits are higher standards, community control over K-12 education on reserve, the ability to create a better learning environment, the teaching of our own language, culture and values, the ability to grant our own graduation certificates as well as access to the Dogwood.

What have we given up to Canada and BC?
We haven’t really given anything up. There will still be a requirement for financial accountability and reporting on numbers to the federal government. We will gain recognition of what we have already been implementing in First Nation schools, and, using provincial standards as a minimum, we will create our own standards that meet our needs.

Opting In/Opting Out

What is the first step towards opting in to the education jurisdiction process?
A First Nation indicates interest in participating in the process by submitting a Band Council Resolution.

Can a First Nation opt out of jurisdiction?
There are several steps to becoming a Participating First Nation and most of these allow for opting out, however, once the Canada-First Nation Agreement has been finalized, including ratification by the Participating First Nation, there is no opting out.

What does it mean if you cannot opt out?
It means that the Participating First Nation will continue to hold jurisdiction even if they choose to vacate the field at a future date. That means the jurisdiction will be dormant and they will have to negotiate alternate ways of ensuring that their members continue to have access to quality education services. Alternatives may include agreements with either public or Independent schools, or with other First Nations schools.

If the community continues to provide those services directly, education funding will revert to the levels for non-Participating First Nation, and they will no longer receive funding for education governance. If they have a five year agreement, it will revert upon the anniversary date.

How will the education jurisdiction initiative impact education for First Nations choosing not to opt in?
There will be no negative impact. First Nations will continue to receive services from FNESC and the FNSA.

How is community readiness for jurisdiction assessed?
There are no criteria. It is up to each community to determine readiness. At a minimum, people need to be prepared to work together and should also have a vision of what the membership wants for the education of their children. It has been suggested that a self-assessment tool might be helpful to communities, containing a set of benchmarks, such as whether the school has gone through an assessment process, if the Board has governance capacity, etc.

Legislation

Will the Indian Act still apply to Participating First Nations?
No, the Indian Act will no longer apply with respect to education. Other areas will still apply, but the Federal enabling legislation that will be enacted will replace sections 114-122 of the Indian Act for those First Nations that sign and ratify a Canada-First Nation Education Jurisdiction Agreement. These sections of the Indian Act refer to the capacity of the Minister to enter into agreements to establish schools to educate Indians, as well as describing the powers of the Truant Officers with respect to Indian students.

What sections of the Indian Act won’t apply?
Sections 114 to 122 of the Indian Act will no longer apply. These are mainly provisions covering truancy and allowing the Minister to enter into agreements with other entities to provide education services. Communities will not be losing anything by coming out from under the Indian Act for education. However, DIAND will still have a fiduciary obligation to provide resources for education, and communities will still be subject to allocation and accountability methodologies, and will need to provide the department with audited financial statements and results reports.

What is the minimum number of First Nations required to finalize the jurisdiction agreement?
It has been agreed that there will need to be a minimum of 12 First Nations who agree to become Participating First Nations in order to proceed with Cabinet approvals and legislation, both provincial and federal.

Treaty Negotiations/Governance

What is the link between this initiative and treaty/self-government negotiations?
The negotiation of education jurisdiction does not preclude or replace treaty negotiations, but can be a step towards negotiating self-governance in education. In developing this initiative, there was care taken to ensure that the law making measures could “slide in” to a treaty, and that there is no duplication of effort. The two critical aspects of this process are the recognition of jurisdiction and the creation of a mechanism for law making in education. First Nations can opt into this process now, test it out to see whether it suits the community, and use it as a starting point or “floor” in treaty negotiations.
Would Hereditary Governance remain in place after the Jurisdiction Agreement is signed?
It could. Right now, the band council is the body that will hold jurisdiction over education once the First Nation signs the jurisdiction Agreements. It is up to the community to choose whether or not to organize its government differently.

Funding

Will there be additional dollars available for the implementation of jurisdiction over education?
Yes. Funding is being negotiated to cover governance costs, and resources for Aboriginal Language and Culture programming are currently being sought. Funding will be available to cover setup costs, including legal advice and liability insurance. Ongoing costs in these areas will be negotiated into the governance costs.

Will there be funding available for the developmental phase for First Nations who wish to become Participating First Nations?
Yes, this is also being negotiated. Information will be made available as soon as there are details.

What does reciprocal tuition mean?
Currently, First Nations schools do not receive tuition for students who attend their schools who are not ordinarily resident on reserve. Under the Jurisdiction Agreement, the Province has agreed to pay, to First Nations schools, tuition for students attending First Nations schools who are not ordinarily resident on reserve. To qualify, the school must be certified by the First Nations Education Authority.

Will Reciprocal Tuition Agreements only be available through this process?
Yes. Right now, provisions for reciprocal tuition are only available through the education jurisdiction process; however, negotiations are underway to expand the provision to any certified First Nation school.

Under jurisdiction would it be necessary for a First Nations school to continue to be Independent schools?
Not necessarily. If the First Nations school is certified by the First Nations Education Authority, the school will be able to grant its own graduation certificate and to apply to grant the Dogwood. They would also be able to enter into an agreement with the province to receive the full block rate for students attending their schools.

How does funding flow work with all these agreements?

Once FNESC, Canada and BC have signed the Framework Agreement and BC First Nations Agreement, participating First Nations have up to three years to enter into a Canada First Nation Education Jurisdiction Agreement. As part of this, a Canada First Nation Funding Agreement will be signed. In the case of off-reserve students attending the First Nations school, tuition funding will flow directly from the Ministry of Education to the First Nation, through a reciprocal tuition agreement.

If the education funding isn’t all spent, will it be clawed back?
It won’t be recovered. However, the First Nation will be responsible for any deficits. Also, funding will be subject to the new national Band-operated Funding Formula; once agreement has been reached between INAC and the AFN, it will be implemented nationally.

Are we replacing INAC with FNESC? Will our education dollars go to FNESC for administration?
No, and no.

If we have law making authority and the funds are mismanaged, what happens?
The community is still the best safeguard for this, in that it holds its government and administration accountable for how funds are used and the results achieved. Also, parents will send their children to whichever school provides the best education for their children, which is another mechanism for accountability. The community is still accountable to the department for how the money is spent and the results achieved. If the funds are mismanaged, the community will be subject to remedial action as outlined in INAC’s funding policies.

Education Standards

What graduation certification will be available to students graduating from First Nations schools?
Certified First Nations schools will be able to grant their own graduation certificate, and if they so choose, they will also be able to apply to have their students receive a Dogwood. The purpose of being able to offer both certificates is to allow time for post secondary institutions and the labour market to recognize the First Nations graduation certificate.

Whose education standards will be used in First Nations schools?
In order to ensure a seamless transition between First Nations and public schools it has been agreed that First Nations schools will use the learning outcomes for the core courses. For all other courses First Nations will determine the standards.

Will my child be guaranteed a quality education comparable to public schools?
The goal is that our children will receive a better, higher quality education, and we will be building standards that are higher in order to achieve this goal. There are no guarantees in any education system.

How is teacher certification done and who does it?
FNESC and the FNSA will be working with the BC College of Teachers (BCCT) to expand on the joint work being done on teaching standards and competencies. This will result in First Nation-specific requirements that are above and beyond the existing BCCT standards. We will contract with the BCCT to certify teachers based on our standards, because the costs are too high to do it ourselves, at least in the early stages.

What does school certification mean?
There is a certification system that has been established by First Nation schools for First Nation schools. The process consists of an internal and external reflection that informs the community about the quality of education being provided by the school. What about standardized tests- will they be required in First Nations schools?
They won’t be a requirement, but will be an option for schools to adopt. The Foundation Skills Assessment doesn’t really meet our schools’ needs, and there are other types of tests that are being researched as options.

Community Education Authorities (CEA)

What is a Community Education Authority?
Click here.

Can my community’s existing Education Board become a Community Education Authority?
FNESC will undertake legal research to determine the process for conversion.

Who will have the ultimate power over education within a community, Chief and Council or the Community Education Authority?
The Chief and Council will be the body that holds the jurisdiction. The CEAs will have delegated responsibilities, such as determining policy directions for their education systems, overseeing the implementation of First Nations education programming on reserve and approving agreements with other bodies for the delivery of education programs and services.

What is the liability- can we be sued?
Yes, legal entities such as the CEA and FNEA are being created that can sue and be sued.

Why should we change current structures (e.g., Society) to CEAs?
We will have more say in what we are asking of our children, and what we are doing for them. Societies fall under provincial jurisdiction, and are incorporated according to the provisions of BC’s Society Act. They are set up for a variety of activities, but are not appropriate for education governance. With education jurisdiction, we are creating our own structures that are specifically designed for governance.

Who decides who sits on the CEA and how much authority do they have?
The community decides. The CEA will be delegated the authority by the First Nation to administer the education system, so the First Nation will determine the degree of authority.

What voting percentage is needed for ratification?
At a minimum, 51% of those who vote must agree to the Agreement and the law-making protocol.

How do you convert the responsibilities of an Education Society to a CEA?
FNESC will have legal counsel look into this.

First Nations Education Authority (FNEA)

What is the role of the First Nations Education Authority? Is it to judge Community Education Authorities?
Although jurisdiction will rest with each Participating First Nation (PFN), the First Nations Education Authority (FNEA) will be a regulatory body exercising certain powers delegated to it by the PFNs, such as teacher and school certification and establishing curriculum standards. The purpose of the FNEA is to provide support to First Nations who wish to exercise jurisdiction over education. As all PFNs will have seats on the First Nations Education Authority, they are all part of determining standards

Will the First Nations Education Authority provide templates for the First Nations Education law, Terms of Reference for a Community Education Authority, and other required documents?
Yes, as these documents are developed they will be posted on the FNESC website.

What is the liability- can we be sued?
Yes, legal entities such as the CEA and FNEA are being created that can sue and be sued.

Are we just replacing INAC with FNEA?
No.

Timing

Is there a cut off time for First Nations to opt into Jurisdiction?
No, there is no cut off time.

How long does our Community have to prepare for the assumption of Jurisdiction over education?
Once the federal enabling legislation has been passed, communities that have entered the process with a BCR will have up to three years to prepare, before signing and ratifying the Canada-First Nation Education Jurisdiction Agreement and the Canada First Nation Education Jurisdiction Funding Agreement.

At what point does education jurisdiction come into effect in a community?
Communities will have up to three years to develop capacity and negotiate the First Nation Jurisdiction Agreement and the Funding Agreement. Jurisdiction will only come into effect after the Agreements are signed by Canada and the First Nation. The community will then be required to ratify the Agreements. Some First Nations may be ready for ratification earlier in the three-year transition period. Canada is currently seeking the mandate to sign Education Jurisdiction Agreements through Cabinet approval and subsequent enabling legislation.