Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa, who serves as the NDP’s Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation critic, says Ontario’s support for on-reserve schools is only a fraction of what they need to get by.

Ontario announced $112 million in funding for on-reserve schools to assist with COVID-19 safety measures and precautions earlier this week, but Mamakwa says this announcement falls far short of what’s needed to keep students safe.

“There is no more time to waste on the jurisdictional game of ping-pong being played with First Nations education. The federal funding announcement fell far short of what First Nations in Ontario need to keep children at school safe. Education is a treaty obligation in Ontario and Doug Ford needs to stop this cruel game.”

“The funding available today for First Nations schools is completely inadequate and is compromising the start of the school year and the safety of students and staff. Ford must move now to provide First Nations children with a safe start to the school year.”

Acting Ontario Regional Chief Alvin Fiddler says he’s hopeful that the additional funding will help to ensure a safe return to on-reserve schools, but noted a lack of details in the announcement.

“Today’s announcement is very much welcomed, but the delay in addressing the ongoing funding requests to ensure the health and safety of First Nations children returning to school on-reserve has been very distressing to leadership across the region,” said Fiddler, in a prepared release.

“We require immediate information on the proposed distribution of funds by the federal government, but we have heard clearly that First Nations in Ontario do not want a proposal based funding approach especially given this funding commitment was made so close to the start of the school year.

“First Nations regions and communities have long been planning for the safe re-opening and return to school despite the lack of committed funds, and I am sure that communities will put this much needed additional funding to work as soon as it is available.”

After some consultations, the education authority at Wabaseemoong First Nation has decided Mizhakiiwetung Memorial School won't reopen right away. They'll be offering online learning, instead.

For more information:
Schools adjusting plans for fall
What happens if COVID-19 is found in local schools?