February 27th, 2020
On eighth anniversary, first nation kids still waiting
OTTAWA – Eight years after the Parliament of Canada voted unanimously to pass the Shannen's Dream motion to end the systemic underfunding of First Nation schools, children on reserves across Canada are still waiting for justice. Today, NDP Critic for Indigenous Youth Charlie Angus and Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, marked the anniversary with a call for the Liberals to finally follow through on their promises to Indigenous children with real action, justice, and basic fairness.
“In her short life, Shannen Koostachin became the voice of a forgotten generation of First Nations children,” said Angus. “Shannen had never seen a real school, but her fight for equal rights for children in Attawapiskat First Nation got a school built and launched the largest youth-driven child rights movement in Canadian history. Her fight went all the way to the United Nations and we fight on today in her memory.”
Shannen Koostachin was killed in a car crash in May, 2010, at the age of 15. A resident of Attawapiskat, Shannen started a national campaign to gain equal funding for aboriginal education. The campaign continued after her death, under the name "Shannen's Dream." On February 27, 2012, the House of Commons unanimously voted in favour of the Shannen`s Dream motion presented by Angus to put First Nations schools on an equal footing with provincial schools.
“It’s been eight years and the Liberals continue the policies of chronic underfunding. This is systemic discrimination. We’re going to keep Shannen’s dream alive and we’re not going to let Justin Trudeau forget the commitments he’s made,” said Angus.
“The truth is I’m out of patience. I’ve seen so many generations of First Nations children grow up under this weight of inequality. I’ve seen federal government after federal government make excuses for their conduct. Shannen was a little girl who knew you needed to get a good education to grow up to be someone important. She never got that chance,” said Blackstock. “The time for patience is over. The Canadian government needs to adopt the Spirit Bear Plan, and allocate the money to get First Nations children the services they need. No more excuses. First Nations children deserve better from this government.”
Compared with off-reserve students, First Nations students receive 30 per cent less funding. The average funding for a reserve kid is about $6,800 while the funding for a kid going to school off reserve about 10 minutes away, is $11,000. A difference of $4,200. In the last report by the auditor general he called the government's handling of First Nation education an "incomprehensible failure."