Charlie Angus, a NDP MP for the Timmins-James Bay, has once again championed a First Nations educational problem.
This time Angus cites from a Parliamentary Budget Officer report. Angus said it shows a deplorable situation in education and the roots can be traced back to Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC).
The report shows millions of dollars in educational funding reallocated and redirected.
INAC built or renovated about 35 schools per year in the 1990s and during the past two years they have only built of worked on eight. Meanwhile half of the schools built on reserves are not in good condition and in need of serious to major repairs or new buildings.
Nation readers will remember Angus because of his particular emphasis on the school situation in Attawapiskat. This community has children being exposed to toxic fumes. The school had been built on a decades-old oil spill and then it was torn down exposing the toxins. The problem is so severe that parents and school officials were forced to close the school.
“These children are suffering physically because of the Minister’s incompetence, irresponsibility and refusal to act,” said Angus.
In addition, First Nations are beginning to act. The Council of Wuskwi Sipihk near Birch River, Manitoba is demanding that INAC replace the dilapidated, mould-infested school on their reserve. “The school was intended as a temporary structure that they estimated would last 12 years, it’s well past that,” said principal Velma Quill. He then added, “It’s very cold here in the winter, I have a hole in my floor and in the other room.”
“Money that is supposed to be spent on school projects is continually siphoned off and spent elsewhere,” said Angus.
Angus said First Nations could and should force the issue further. “[The report] proves what they have been experiencing. Now it becomes a political fight to say to the government it doesn’t have to be like this. I think that every community that has been told by INAC that they have to be accountable and transparent can turn around now and say, ‘where is your accountability when it comes to building construction and commitment for schools on First Nations?’”
The report also noted that “INAC’s data on First Nations schools is inadequate for proper planning and accounting purposes.”