Shannen’s Dream gets all party support in the House of Commons

This week parliament passed a New Democrat motion to improve education in First Nation Schools. Based on Shannen’s Dream, the motion saw all parties agree that children in First Nations schools have the right to high-quality, culturally-relevant education that includes funding for special education services, libraries and technology.  It also stated that teachers and students had the right to a safe environment, which spoke to the state of repair for many buildings that house these schools.

For those who may not know, Shannen Koostachin was an elementary school student from Attawapiskat who never knew what it was like to learn in a real classroom. Her school was built on contaminated ground and was replaced years ago with ‘temporary’ portables that remain to this day. Tragically, Shannen passed away in a car accident in May of 2010, but her dream lives on and the movement that bears her name received a powerful vote of confidence from parliament when the New Democrat motion passed.

There are hundreds of First Nation schools right across Canada facing similar problems to the one in Attawapiskat.  Buildings that are unsafe, have little heat, and no libraries are a just a few of the issues that need to be addressed.  That the government is letting any of these schools run into the ground is a shame.  That there are so many with similar problems speaks to the urgency of the situation.

Our motion was all about equality of opportunity for elementary and high-school students on First Nations.  It is important to remember that the provinces do not provide education money for these schools, the federal government does.  Adding their support could be seen as a significant change of direction for the Conservatives, but it remains to be seen if their budget follows up on their words.

All Shannen wanted was a safe and warm school, what she called ‘comfy’, that she was never able to experience.  The motion brings us, one step closer to closing the funding gap and creating an equal quality of education for all First nations. It is hoped that the health and safety of those students and teachers will no longer take a back seat or be seen as inferior to provincial schools. 

While we could not be happier with the outcome of this motion, we will wait and see if the Conservative’s actions will match their words; they must put their money where their mouth is and prove to First Nations that they will come through on their promise of better education on reserves.