Indian education in Canada : implementation of educational policy, 1973-1978
Ward, Margaret S.
This thesis examines the political interaction between the Canadian federal government and the Indian Nations within Canada in the sphere of educational policy implementation from 1973 through 1978. In 1973, the federal government adopted a new educational policy for Indians which was based on the National Indian Brotherhood's policy document, Indian Control of Indian Education, and which incorporated the principles of parental responsibility and local control. This new educational policy was a radical change from previous educational policy, which had incorporated principles of assimilation into mainstream Canadian society and widespread integration into provincial school systems. The first five years of implementation of the new educational policy transpired within the context of a mutually agreed upon process of "partnership" and "consultation". On the national level, the Joint Cabinet/National Indian Brotherhood Committee forum was utilized to raise the question of an Indian right to education. Legislative changes to the Indian Act regarding provision of educational services to Indians were sought through a joint consultative Indian Act revision process. In conjunction with the exploration of these long-range methods of policy implementation, a more immediate method of educational policy implementation occurred through the transfer of education programs or program aspects to Band Councils. Program transfer guidelines served as the primary instruments for effecting this method of policy implementation. The initiation of a Cultural/Educational Centres Program under the auspices of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development also provided an avenue for educational policy implementation. In spite of the intended mode of educational policy implementation, claims and counterclaims regarding the consultative/participatory nature of implementation of Indian control of Indian education resounded throughout 1973-1978. The culmination of misunderstandings, misinterpretations and frustrations regarding "consultation" in policy implementation was the unilateral withdrawal of the National Indian Brotherhood from the Joint Committee process in April of 1978. The value of jointly pursuing legislative change to the education sections of the Indian Act came into question as well among Indian leaders in 1978, in light of the perceived threat to aboriginal and Indian rights in general resulting from Prime Minister Trudeau's tabling of Bill C-60, an Act to Amend the Canadian Constitution. The disconsonance during 1973-1978 between the Indian Nations and the federal government regarding the consultative/participatory nature of educational policy implementation can be partially understood in terms of a failure to clearly differentiate between the actual process of consultation and the unilaterally written products of consultative meetings. Organizational aspects of the National Indian Brotherhood also impinged on the manner in which it could participate in the consultative forums. Federal government - Indian Nation interaction in the sphere of educational policy implementation intermeshed with the overall political interaction between these two entities in the continual struggle to define the political relationship between Canada and the indigenous Indian Nations.