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Children Take Their Education Concerns to the U.N.

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Having waited their entire lives for improved schools on their reserves, children are taking matters into their own hands, and to the United Nations.

Supported by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, aboriginal and non-Native children wrote letters outlining the conditions in most reserve schools. These letters comprise the report “Our Dream Matter Too: First Nations Children’s Rights, Lives and Education,” submitted to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) on June 9. The goal is to get the UNCRC to review Canada’s implementation of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and investigate the educational and other inequities between First Nations

First Nations children receive $2,000 to $3,000 fewer educational funds annually per student than non-First Nations children do, according to a statement by the Chiefs of Ontario, the political coordinating body for the 133 First Nation communities that lie in the province of Ontario.

The gap “oftentimes translates into fewer teachers, educational resources, science equipment, books and libraries, and computers; a lack of support for special needs students; and unsafe and inadequate school structures,” the statement said.

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The federal government is working in conjunction with aboriginal leaders to study and correct conditions in schools on reserves. A blue ribbon panel is scheduled to release a report sometime this year.

The children’s initiative was inspired by the life and untimely death of Shannen Koostachin, of Attawapiskat First Nation, who led a movement for safe, comfortable schools and culturally appropriate education for First Nations students after her school was closed by a diesel fuel spill and was not replaced. A new school promised nine years ago has yet to be built, the First Nations of Ontario release said.

June marks the first anniversary of Shannen’s untimely death in a car accident at age 15. This video was made to commemorate a day in her honor on April 27, 2011. The full, 15-minute version can be seen here.