Youtube School Campaign Forces Government Back to Table: But Attawapiskat Cree will Continue Campaign
Talks for a new school in the isolated Cree community of Attawapiskat are back on. Indian Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl has agreed to return to the negotiating table in the face of mounting pressure from an unprecedented youtube campaign that encouraged Canadian schools to participate in a national letter-writing blitz.Charlie Angus has worked with the community on this national campaign. He says the community is pleased that negotiations are back on but they will not stop the campaign until the school is built.
“We are pleased that the government has agreed to come back to the table. What was done to the people of Attawapiskat was wrong and it must be addressed. However, we are very aware that agreeing to talk is not the same thing as agreeing to build a school.”
Angus says it’s clear that the youtube campaign forced the government back to the table. “If the government is simply trying to turn the political heat down they are mistaken. The campaign will continue until the government agrees to build a school.”
Last December, Minister Strahl cancelled plans to build a grade school for 400 children in the isolated James Bay community of Attawapiskat, Ontario. The community had been in negotiations for 8 years to have a school built. Following the cancellation, the community launched a national awareness campaign.
Angus says the youtube video is moving in on 30,000 hits and the campaign is preparing to expand.
“We have a number of schools who are taking on the role of organizing their own city-wide campaigns. As well, we are working with a school in Montreal on a French language version of the youtube video.”
The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation is the latest group to join the campaign. They will be urging all members to lobby Ottawa. School groups from British Columbia to New Brunswick are also engaged. The campaign has set up a resource site for students at www.attawapiskat-school.com. Angus says he plans to visit a number of schools in Southern Ontario over the next month to encourage their efforts.