Thanks to the hard work of our employees and the collaboration of our many partners, we have successfully implemented many different programs, ranging from the training of Crees for skilled jobs with Hydro-Quebec (over 50 Crees now occupy permanent positions), the rejuvenation of Cree community and family fisheries, the support of numerous cultural activities including summer gatherings and the enhancement of goose hunting facilities. This is not to mention the hundreds of kilometres of snowmobile and ATV trails already built throughout Eeyou Istchee.
On its 20th anniversary, Niskamoon Corporation salutes The Nation magazine and wishes it many more years of success and positive change.
Financing Shannen’s Dream
Does the federal budget fund educational equality?
Shannen Koostachin, the late Cree youth leader from Attawapiskat, once had a dream that every child in Canada would attend a “safe and comfy” school, a luxury many First Nations children across Canada do not experience. Today, Parliament even agrees that this should be a reality. But, the big question is will the Conservative government put its money where its mouth is and finance this dream.
As on-reserve schools are funded on average 22% less than their general population counterparts, the 15-year-old Koostachin spent the last few years prior to her untimely accidental death in 2010 lobbying for a school in her own community and for equal funding for other reserve schools. Since her death, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada (FNCFCSC) has continued the fight for this equality in hopes of ending educational apartheid under the banner of Shannen’s Dream.
After years of lobbying, protest marches and letter-writing campaigns by children from across Canada, Motion 202, dubbed “Shannen’s Dream”, was debated in Parliament and passed unanimously on February 27.
But, to end this inequality proper funding must be in place and, according to Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the FNCFCSC, this budget didn’t see First Nations children get the equality they so badly need.
“Shannen's Dream wasn't about partial equality. It was about equality of opportunity. It's about every child having a safe and proper school and having equitable and culturally based education. The federal government's budget is really a drop-in-the-bucket approach to equality, something that has been carried on by the federal governments for decades,” said Blackstock.
Ottawa announced a new $275 million over three years for First Nations education with $100 million earmarked for early literacy programming among other supports and $175 million to go to building and renovating schools on reserves.
While Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said that this funding was about the government working to “unlock the potential of Canada's First Nations children”, opposition critics have argued that this money falls significantly short when what was needed was more in the ballpark of $500 million to get Native education up to snuff.
“What Harper’s announcement signaled for me is that the current government along with past government has been comfortable with the idea of racial discrimination against children as being a legitimate fiscal restraint measure. And, the second thing it signaled to me is that there is no end-date as to when these inequalities are expected to be put to bed for First Nations kids,” said Blackstock.
Getting back to the foundation’s namesake, Blackstock said that Koostachin would often mention in her public speaking engagements how much she hated broken promises. While at the time this was in reference to how Aboriginal Affairs had once promised Attawapiskat a new elementary school and then reneged, claiming they didn’t have enough money to build one, the situation remains the same.
As for the funding that will actually come, Blackstock doubts that it will even make a major impact.
“I don't even think it's a finger in the dyke. If you look, for example, at the schools that need to be built... this is not going to build a lot of schools, it's not even going to renovate many of them.
“What we are talking about here is the lives of some children may get a little bit better, but many won't be affected at all by this budget, they will continue to be in the poor conditions they are currently in. The fact that there is no end-date for it really worries me because that doesn't provide any sense of hope or any kind of markers of where we can say “Ok, well, you did this in this budget after signing Shannen's Dream, so when are you going to make the dream that much more real?’” said Blackstock.