Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox has expressed the frustration of First Nations leaders as the Government of Canada has all but ignored urgent requests to provide necessary resources and supplies that would allow students to return to school in a safe environment in September.
“The lack of any meaningful action by the federal government has left our leaders and parents extremely frustrated and ill-prepared to make key decisions with respect to the safe delivery of education programs and services when classes resume next month,” said Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox, who holds the education portfolio. “School districts across the country are receiving additional funding for COVID-19 preparedness, but we have yet to hear anything from Indigenous Services Canada. Education is a Treaty right. Canada must provide sufficient education specific resources we need to allow our students to be educated in as safe an environment as possible when the new school year begins in a few weeks.”
Like all education districts, schools across NAN territory require sufficient education specific resources to safely deliver education programs and services until a vaccine is available. The continued lack of response from Indigenous Services Canada jeopardizes the ability of NAN First Nations to deliver education to nearly 9,000 elementary and secondary students.
Regular core funding cannot meet the additional costs of delivering education during this pandemic. To date, Canada has failed to identify additional funding to meet significant additional costs that will allow NAN students to continue their education in a safe environment.
“The education year for many of our students was already disrupted when the pandemic broke out in the spring. We are extremely concerned that continued disruption of education will worsen the significant education achievement gap experienced by our youth and increase the number of students permanently dropping out of school,” said Fox.
NAN territory encompasses two-thirds of Ontario. Most of the 49 NAN First Nation communities are remote, accessible only by air or seasonal winter roads. Remoteness has provided some protection from the coronavirus, but there is high risk of rapid community spread.