The federal government’s controversial First Nations Education Act has been put on hold following the May 2 resignation of Shawn A-in-chut Atleo, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations.
Atleo supported the education bill, which has been criticized by several First Nations groups for the amount of control it would leave in the hands of the federal government.
Atleo struggled to convince fellow First Nations leaders to support the bill. His acceptance of the bill sparked accusations he was too cozy with the Conservative government, charges which likely had a hand in his abrupt resignation. In his final press conference as chief, Atleo said he hoped his decision would keep his leadership from being a distraction.
“This work is too important, and I’m not prepared to be an obstacle to it or a lightning rod distracting from the kids and their potential,” said Atleo.
Federal funding for First Nations education had steadily increased under Atleo’s leadership, and the proposed bill included additional funding increases that were uncharacteristic of the Harper administration. However, the majority of First Nations leaders and communities were vocal about their concern for the lack of self-determination it granted FN educators and administrators.