Lake Huron Regional Grand Chief opposes policy alternative on education

Serpent River First Nation, Canada April 2010

Chiefs and Councils seem to be the main target in a recent Helin-Snow policy proposal called Free to Learn: Giving Aboriginal Youth Control over Their Post-Secondary Education that was released this past month. The background for this policy alternative claims First Nation nepotism corruption and favouritism seem to be one of the main problems with the education shortfalls for First Nations.

This proposed policy alternative written under the Macdonald-Laurier Institute arrives as the Conservative government prepares to unveil a new plan to finance native and Inuit post-secondary education.

To further his attempt at vilifying First Nation leadership Helin says that "if you are one of the 70 percent of Indians who live off reserve, you would probably not receive a dime. Nobody knows you and there is no political payoff to financing your education."     

Serpent River First Nation Chief Isadore Day who is also the Lake Huron Regional Grand Chief says that leaders in his region strongly reject the Helin-Snow policy alternative as government propaganda. Chief Day suggests that Mr Helin and his policy proposal is “rife” with his own ideas and sited with a majority of references from his own book “Dances with Dependency.”

Chief Day adds, “Free to Learn: Giving Aboriginal Youth Control over Their Post-Secondary Education” should be reconsidered as an ‘opinion piece’ in the domain of public policy alternatives until it can meet standardized criteria for referencing and research required for credible policy discourse.”

Day says that this policy discussion should be matched with research on matters such as the colonial accounting for an attempted genocide of this Nations First Peoples. He adds that perhaps “a historian’s view of ‘Canada – the so-called polite country’ would help Mr. Helin correct some of his damaging opinions of the proud profession of First Nation leadership. He says that it is First Nation leaders who face real issues of proactive disengagement from Indian and Northern Affairs Canada and a mainstream political system that continues to ignore treaties and still operates on the historical substrate of policies specifically designed for “killing the Indian in the child.”

Day also points out that “it makes no sense for government to highly publicize these types of policy alternatives to the Canadian public until it can substantiate these uncouth claims made by Helin and Snow. An increasing number of our First Nation governance structures are heading into the 21st Century as capable, advanced and results-based driven – my hunch is that government is making desperate attempts to do more with less.”

There are many Serpent River First Nation citizens that live off-reserve that have benefited from the fair delivery of education funding and have gone on to be nurses, engineers, teachers etc.” says Chief Day.  “I’m very taken back by Mr. Helin, whom is a First Nations person himself, that he would attempt to paint First Nations leaders using the cookie-cutter brush of colonial ignorance – it simply does not look smart that government would even consider this self-absorbed so-called policy research.”

Chief Day and his Council oppose any upheaval of their system and delivery of Post Secondary Education Funding because it has worked for years and continues to provide results. He concludes by saying that many of his First Nation citizens that have lived off-reserve, have been provided fair access to these resources, including himself.