Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus has launched a campaign called Shannen’s Dream in an effort to address under-funding of First Nation schools.
Angus introduced a motion in the House of Commons Sept. 23 called Shannen’s Dream (Motion 571). The motion calls on the federal government to close the funding gap for on-reserve schools.
Angus said First Nation schools are plagued with problems because of a discrepancy in per pupil funding between provincial schools and reserve schools.
“In the twenty-first century it is simply not acceptable that First Nations children are not given the same education rights as children in the provincial system,” Angus said.
This campaign also serves to honour the life of Shannen Koostachin and her goal of equality for First Nations children.
Koostachin was a 15 year-old youth who led the fight for a new school in her home community of Attawapiskat. She wanted future generations of students in her community to have a “comfy” school.
She died in a vehicle accident in May outside New Liskeard, Ont., where she was going to school.
“Young Shannen Koostachin had a dream that every child should be able to go to what she called ‘big, comfy’ schools – schools that inspired children and gave them hope,” Angus said.
When she was 13 years old, Koostachin confronted then Indian Affairs minister Chuck Strahl over his refusal to fulfill a federal commitment to build a new elementary school to replace the cold and drafty portables her community is using since the old school was closed in 2000 due to a diesel fuel spill.
Her efforts did not go unnoticed as she was nominated for an International Children’s Peace Prize.
Her dream was fulfilled when it was confirmed in 2009 the community would get a new school by 2012.
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