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TORONTO, April 28 – At a Board of Directors meeting on April 26, 2008 the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association unanimously passed a motion initiated by Bluewater District School Board urging the Government of Canada to fund the building of a new school in the Attawapiskat community. A long list of schools needs to be built on First Nations reserves, and Attawapiskat, on James Bay, was bumped off the list because needs were deemed greater elsewhere. For eight years now, the children at Attawapiskat have been promised a real school instead of makeshift portables. They were moved into portables eight years ago when a diesel spill left their school environment toxic.
“All children have the right to quality education,” said trustee Grace Fox, First Nation Director on the OPSBA Board of Directors. “The children of Attawapiskat have endured substandard conditions for too many years. It is high time for them to be a priority for this federal government and get the school they so desperately need.”
OPSBA recognizes that well-maintained, healthy and stimulating learning environments are absolutely crucial for students to succeed academically and become contributing, responsible members of society.
To date, member boards have been active on this issue and Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board has written to the Federal Government supporting the growing strength of voices urging solutions for substandard educational facilities on First Nations reserves, and in the Attawapiskat community in Ontario specifically. Several Secondary schools have engaged in awareness and letter writing campaigns for Attawapiskat.
OPSBA is concerned that Attawapiskat is indicative of a larger problem. The Commons standing committee on aboriginal affairs was informed that five years ago INAC identified 29 school projects that have been postponed due to lack of funding. Only 12 of them are scheduled to start in the 2008-09 budget year, and Attawapiskat isn’t one of them.
That is why OPSBA passed a second motion vowing to work with the Canadian School Boards Association to identify on-reserve schools that are required to be built across Canada and to urge the Government of Canada to adequately fund them within a timeframe that will benefit First Nations children as soon as possible.
“OPSBA member boards have demonstrated their commitment to working with First Nations communities. We want to be involved in ensuring that all Aboriginal children reach their rich education potential,” said OPSBA president Colleen Schenk.
For further information: Jeff Sprang, Communications, (416) 340-2540
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