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ETFO Challenges Youth to Take Up ‘Shannen’s Dream’Campaign calling for First Nations’ education equality being launched in memory of youth activist
November 11, 2010
TORONTO – Shannen Koostachin was a young Aboriginal activist who campaigned for more equitable funding and better conditions for First Nations’ schools before she died tragically last May. Now, organizations including the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) are throwing support and funds behind a campaign to have students across Canada take up her challenge.
“Shannen’s advocacy helped us see very clearly the impact of underfunding by the federal government on schools in First Nations communities,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond. “We’re challenging teachers and students in elementary schools to support the Shannen’s Dream campaign to ensure that every young Canadian—no matter where they live—realizes the same fundamental right to decent schools and education in order to reach their full potential.”
The campaign, initiated by MP Charlie Angus (NDP-Timmins-James Bay), will be formally launched on November 17th in Ottawa. Earlier this fall, Angus introduced Motion 571 “Shannen’s Dream” in the House of Commons. It calls for the right of First Nations children to high-quality, culturally relevant education, transparency in school construction, maintenance and replacement, and funding that will put reserve schools on par with non-reserve provincial schools.
“Because of its fiduciary responsibilities under the Indian Act, the Department of Indian Affairs is functioning as a school board. How then can the Department justify that funding for Aboriginal students is $2,000 less than that for students in the provincially funded public and Catholic systems,” added Hammond. “In the case of Attawapiskat, it is unacceptable that the community has waited over 10 years for the Department to build a new school there, despite protests from First Nations and many others including ETFO.”
ETFO has made a financial contribution to the Shannen’s Dream campaign to help develop short videos, posters and other materials that will encourage students across Canada and others to call for an end to underfunding of First Nations schools. The campaign has also set up a scholarship to support education projects and scholarships for youth from the isolated James Bay coast.
Shannen Koostachin began her campaign because she and her classmates were forced to attend school in portables because her school was sitting on a toxic brownfield. There is still no new school despite a promise by the Federal Government in 2009 to build one. Since Shannen died in car accident last spring, Angus and others have worked to keep Shannen’s Dream alive.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario represents 76,000 elementary public school teachers and education professionals across the province and is the largest teacher federation in Canada.