Hundreds rally for education

first_imgAPTN National NewsOTTAWA–Hundreds gathered in the shadow of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill Thursday, waving flags and placards, drumming and dancing, in one of the largest rallies this year by First Nations people who came from as far away as New Brunswick to demand federal politicians reverse the dismal quality of education on reserves.A group of about 12 people walked 150 kilometres from Kitigan Zibi, Que., arriving in Ottawa Thursday to make a statement about the immediate need faced by First Nations communities on education.“Our community does not receive equitable funding as to the neighbouring provincial schools,” said Anita Tenasco, Kitigan Zibi’s director of education and one of the walkers. “This is what our walk is about, bringing awareness to the Canadian public.”AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo said it was time for the government to step up their investment in education.He said Ottawa needed to partner with communities and give First Nations children the opportunities they need to get ahead and break the crippling cycle that debilitates so many reserves.“This is going to continue until we see change in people’s lives in the communities…this is about what is going to happen to the young people that are here today,” said Atleo. “We need some expression of commitment from the government and we need it soon.”Atleo said the government needs to come through with $2 billion in education funding to bring the level of education available to First Nations children on par with their provincial counterparts.Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan spoke at the rally and said his government was already spending $1.4 billion a year on First Nations education and $200 million on fixing and building schools.“There is clearly a need for First Nations children to succeed and for the system to improve. We also know that there is not a one size fits all approach that will work, so we are willing to work in partnership and we have been demonstrating that very clearly,” said Duncan.RCMP officers estimated about 800 people at the rally, one of the largest First Nations rallies in the last couple of years.“I’m here to support everybody, everyone all in Ontario, all the little communities, students who don’t have school,” said Oola Akavak, 20, originally from Nunavut, but attending an alternative high school in Ottawa. “It just hurts me to know that they don’t have any school to learn.”Pierce Trudeau, 15, from Sagamok First Nation in northern Ontario, said he was there to ensure he could get higher education.“I’m here to protest for our post-secondary education funding so we can get somewhere in life,” said Trudeau.While he spoke, drums pounded and pow wow dancers swirled on the steps of Parliament Hill.And there was an edge to the rally.While he spoke, Batchewana First Nation Chief Dean Sayers turned toward the Parliament buildings and warned the politicians inside that First Nation communities would be taking it to the streets and railways if the government didn’t listen.“Unfortunately our people are at the threshold. There is going  to be things happening this fall, this winter and this spring, that whether or not Canada likes it, will draw the attention of the world,” said Sayers, whose community is in northern Ontario.last_img