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Children 'completely overlooked' in funding for First Nations schools: MP

MP says government 'setting the First Nation schools up, once again, to fail'
2019-12-20 Charlie Angus MH
Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus. Maija Hoggett/TimminsToday

Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus says First Nation children are being “completely overlooked” when it comes to funding reserve schools.

Aug 26, the federal government announced $2 billion in funding to help provinces and territories safely reopen schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced an additional $112 million for First Nations to ensure students’ safe return to school on reserves.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler has welcomed the announcement but also expressed some concerns.

Angus shared the same sentiment, saying the funding is not “nearly enough”.

“The $2 billion the federal government gives to the provincial system is very surprising and I'm sure the province and the provincial schools will enjoy it,” he said. “But reserve schools are under the mandate of the federal government, and the federal government has done nothing so far to help First Nations schools that are already badly underfunded compared to the province.”

He said provincially-funded schools that already have better resources will be getting a “big chunk of money,” while First Nations schools have fewer resources and have to share $112 million across the country.       

“The First Nations schools lack basic resources that the provincial schools have, they’re overcrowded, the children are in much more precarious situations because of the isolation and poverty. And COVID could be a disaster in this communities,” he said.

Angus said the government should have planned this months ago instead of announcing it close to the start of the school year, noting that many schools may be unable to access the funding due to the way it has been set up.

He also called the federal government to take its responsibility “seriously” and to make it easy for schools to access the funding.

“They’re setting the First Nation schools up, once again, to fail,” Angus said in an interview. “We need adequate funding across the board for First Nation schools, so that they’re on the same level as the provincial schools. Right now, it’s systemic discrimination that they face.”

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Dariya Baiguzhiyeva

About the Author: Dariya Baiguzhiyeva

Dariya Baiguzhiyeva is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering diversity issues for TimminsToday. The LJI is funded by the Government of Canada
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