August 6th, 2020
LETTER: THIS GOVERNMENT CAN'T CONTINUE TO PLAY GAMES WITH FIRST NATION EDUCATION
Dear Minister Miller,
I am writing to you today because your department, and your government, is once again ignoring First Nations deeply concerned about their children’s safety in light of the plan to return to school during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the recent news that Manitoba schools will be reopening, First Nations educators, parents and leaders have reached out to our office asking what plan your government has to support the significant needs of First Nations schools including in following provincial guidelines. On-reserve schools have been chronically underfunded for decades by successive federal governments. On top of the devastating impacts of underfunding, they are grappling with the threat of a pandemic to which First Nations are particularly vulnerable. Once again governments are playing games with First Nations’ lives. The federal government says that provincial guidelines should be followed but the provincial government says that funding is a federal responsibility.
This is urgent. Manitoba schools are opening in September. If on-reserve schools are to be ready, the time to act is now. Kindergarten until grades 8 are to return to 5 days a week full-time study while grades 9-12 are to return for “up to 5 days” based on the capacity to social distance. Many on-reserve schools are overcrowded, do not have proper ventilation, and don’t have adequate access to the materials needed to keep young people safe.
There is much work to be done.
I look forward to hearing a clear and concise plan from your office to ensure First Nations access education in safe and healthy learning environments as all children in Canada deserve.
This cannot wait.
MP Niki Ashton (Churchill--Keewatinook Aski)