Ontario Federation of Labour

Ontario Federation of Labour

November 17, 2010 07:30 ET

National Groundswell of Support for "Shannen's Dream": OFL Calls for an End to Shameful Discrimination Faced by First Nations School Children

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 17, 2010) - Representatives of Canada's First Nations, unions, school boards, human rights and community organizations will be in attendance at today's 10:30 a.m. media conference, Charles Lynch Theatre, House of Commons to launch a powerful and rapidly growing campaign to ensure equal education for First Nations children.

The formal initiative, known as "Shannen's Dream," was organized by NDP MP Charlie Angus who introduced Motion 571 in the House of Commons. Angus has worked tirelessly to press the federal government to end long-standing discriminatory practices that continue to impede Aboriginal youth in their desire for an education.

The catalyst for the campaign was young Aboriginal activist and student, Shannen Koostachin, who died tragically in a car accident last year at the age of 15. She had never seen a real school and spent all of her primary years in a makeshift portable set up on a badly contaminated brownfield. Shannen became the leading spokesperson for change, calling on the Harper government to take immediate action to remedy the problems encountered in both her home community of Attawapiskat in Northern Ontario and on all reserves.

"It is unforgiveable that the federal government continues to allow these sub-standard conditions to exist," said OFL Executive Vice-President Terry Downey who will be attending the media conference and the day of events at the Elgin Street Public School.

"No First Nations child should have to endure these terrible conditions and barriers to the fundamental human right of quality education. We cannot overstate the importance of education and its primary role in enabling all children to develop their full human potential," Downey said.

Shannen became the voice of a generation of forgotten First Nations children. She was a keynote speaker at last year's OFL convention. In both her speech and written materials she noted her desire to become a lawyer. "For the last eight years, I have never been in a real school. I do not like going to school in washrooms, and I do not want my younger brother and sisters thinking those portables are proper schools," she said.

"Education is important because in the future you'll have a better life. Because without an education, you wouldn't have a job or go anywhere at all," Shannen told her many supporters.

The campaign to make Shannen's dream a reality asserts the right of First Nations children to high-quality, culturally relevant education. It calls for transparency in school construction, maintenance and replacement as well as funding that will put reserve schools on par with non-reserve provincial schools.

The Ontario Federation of Labour is Canada's largest labour federation, representing 54 unions and one million Ontario workers.

Contact Information

  • Ontario Federation of Labour
    Terry Downey
    Executive Vice-President
    416.578.3230 (mobile)
    Ontario Federation of Labour
    Lynn Simmons
    Communications Director
    416.668.7480 (mobile)