SIOUX LOOKOUT – Sol Mamakwa, NDP Official Opposition critic for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, sent the following open letter to Ontario’s education minister requesting urgent support for Matawa First Nations COVID-19 Emergency Education Response Plan.
The Ford government has still not provided First Nations schools the funding required to safely manage COVID-19 to ensure the safe return of students in September.
The Hon. Stephen Lecce
Ministry of Education
5th Flr, 438 University Ave.
Toronto, ON M7A 2A
via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
RE: Support for the Matawa Emergency Education Response Plan
July 8, 2020
Dear Minister Lecce,
This is an urgent request calling for your commitment to support and fund the Matawa First Nations COVID-19 Emergency Education Response Plan.
First Nations schools continue to not have the funding required to safely manage COVID-19.
The Matawa Chiefs Council is therefore requesting emergency funding to support ongoing costs and new measures that must be in place for the safe return of students in September. Matawa First Nations require additional funding to support expanded broadband, additional PPE supplies, the upgrading of facilities and curriculum modifications.
The options you have provided Ontario public schools between returning to full time in-class instruction, and/or online-only learning, leaves out students in fly-in First Nations communities across Ontario’s far North.
Families and schools in remote communities often have too few devices and poor to insufficient broadband. Without access to broadband in their communities and nowhere else to go, students are unable to access the mandatory programs they need to complete their education. Indigenous students are being excluded from the provincial education system.
This exclusion of First Nations students from your government’s education plans is part of the systemic racism that Indigenous young people are forced to cope with.
That systemic racism must end.
Our learners deserve access to the same level of technology and educational supports whether they attend a provincial or a First Nations school.
Communities across the Kiiwetinoong that are planning for the safe delivery of education programs and services during COVID-19 in the upcoming school year
need your support.
First Nation communities across the far North, the learners and the staff need to be safe if quality education programs and services are to be delivered in the upcoming year.
The expense of providing education in a safe and healthy environment will require additional funding from your ministry.
While First Nations and their educational support organizations strive to provide a quality education that meets student needs, they now have to look at altering their methods of delivery, and hiring additional staff such as teachers and support staff with experience in remote learning.
There is also a heightened need for investment in mental health systems development and mental health supports for learners to ensure services are available to meet the increased demand during this time of crisis.
This is the perfect opportunity to show your commitment to education in the North. I ask you to transcend jurisdictional ambiguity and support this necessary emergency funding.
I look forward to your response.
cc: Matawa Chiefs Council
Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald, Chiefs of Ontario
Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, Nishnawbe Aski Nation
Marit Stiles, MPP Davenport, Opposition Critic for Education