First Nations citizens approve Anishinabek Educational System

NORTH BAY—There was jubilation, along with some relief, following the news that the Anishinabek Education System ratification vote had surpassed the 25 percent plus one of the 37,000 Union of Ontario Indians (Anishinabek Nation) community members’ participation and approval of at least 12 First Nations required to meet the ratification threshold.

“Niigaan gdizhaami—we are moving forward,” said Grand Council Chief Madahbee in the official release from the Anishinabek Nation. “I can’t help but think about the students. The people who made this happen have really done something so important for them. What we did was historical.”

The Anishinabek Nation Education Agreement is the largest self-government agreement in Canada. The ratification vote was held November 28 to December 2, and saw 29 communities running a vote. According to the news release, official results will not be made available as to how many communities successfully ratified the agreement or the names of the communities that were successful until mid-December.

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“We have a meeting tomorrow to begin to assess the next steps,” said Chief Madahbee when contacted by The Expositor on Monday. “We have definitely met the threshold to proceed, but there were a few communities where the vote was not so clear,” he said.

Asked what the status of any communities that did not ratify the vote would be within the AES, Chief Madahbee noted that this “will be one of the things we will be discussing in our meeting tomorrow.”

The grand council chief said that the numbers would be clearer as of Tuesday, but that will be after press day Monday for this week’s edition of The Expositor.

The next phase in the AES process will be working out the details of the transition. “We will be working on what agreements need to be in place at the federal and provincial level,” said Chief Madahbee. “We hope to have everything in place by April 2018.”

Under the agreement, First Nations communities will be taking greater control over the education of their children through the implementation of regional educational subcommittees in a AES that will essentially create what has been described as a First Nation Board of Education.

The grand council chief noted that there were a number of Anishinabek Nation member communities that did not participate in the vote. “A couple of communities were just not logistically ready to be able to participate in the vote,” he said. “Some others felt that they were not ready to sign on as the agreement stands, but the door is open to those communities going forward in the future.”

In the meantime, members of the Anishinabek Nation negotiating team have little time to rest on their laurels as there is still much work ahead. “There are a lot of details to be worked out,” said Chief Madahbee, who noted that the negotiators would not be rolling down their sleeves anytime soon. “Niigaan gdizhaami,” he reiterated. “We are moving forward.”