Education consultations marred by bloody Saskatoon skirmish

Published in Windspeaker newspaper | March 2013 | Circulation: 145,000

The federal government’s attempt to consult First Nations across the country over its proposed First Nations Education Act remain controversial, with some taking part in a series of meetings, and others pledging to boycott them.

Outside a meeting held in Saskatoon by Aboriginal Affairs Canada on Feb. 8, tensions boiled over as Idle No More (INM) members say they were shut out midway through, leading to a skirmish with security guards that left the TCU Place doors smeared with blood, according to video and several witness accounts.

“The morning meeting went fine,” said Sylvia McAdam, one of INM’s co-founders. “People were sitting there; we were listening. It was quite empowering to listen to chiefs saying they opposed the First Nations Education Act… The chiefs there in the morning did extremely well. They opposed the legislation.

“Idle No More does not consent to any consultation that undermines and infringes on the treaty right to education. I asked them how come they’re not working with what is already there. They didn’t answer me. Why are they not funding the schools already in existence on reserves on par with other education institutions, instead of trying to create a First Nations Education Act?”

According to McAdam, the meeting took a break at 10:30 a.m., but when she and about 50 people returned at 1 p.m., as they had been told, security guards informed them the meetings were now closed to the public.

“I was like, ‘What?! Why? That can’t be true!’ People were starting to move up the stairs, and security said, ‘You can’t go over there. It’s a closed meeting for safety reasons.’

“A young man tried to open the door, and a security guard pulled it hard enough to make a cut on his hand. An older lady tried to come out. She was inside the meeting. She was holding the door open and telling us to come in. Security shoved her–even grabbed her by her head–and started pushing her. She was trying to explain something to him, but he wouldn’t listen. He was really rough… Even other [TCU] staff were telling that security guard not to do that.”

Several chiefs eventually negotiated to allow members of the public inside, a few allowed into the meetings and others observing from a foyer. But McAdam said she wants TCU Place and Aboriginal Affairs to apologize for the incident. But the CEO of the building told Windspeaker he was asked by the department not to speak to media.

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