Our dreams matter too

(June 9, 2011) – First Nations students are tired of waiting for Canada to ensure culturally based equity in education.

Today, they joined with non-Aboriginal students to launch a report called “Our Dreams Matter Too” at Pierre Elliot Trudeau School in Gatineau, Quebec.

The report asks the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child to study the inequities in First Nations elementary and secondary education.

“This is the third anniversary of Prime Minister Harper’s apology for residential schools and yet First Nations education and child welfare continue to be dramatically under-funded,” said Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society.

“Many First Nations have no schools or have schools in deplorable condition. “

The report was inspired by First Nations youth education activist Shannen Koostachin, founder of the Shannen’s Dream campaign for safe and comfy schools and equitable education, and convened by a group of students from Attawapiskat First Nation and Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation called the “Dream Team.”

Shannen Koostachin of Attawapiskat First Nation had a dream – safe and comfy schools and culturally based education for First Nations children and youth.

She worked tirelessly to try to convince the federal government to give First Nations children a proper education before tragically passing away at the age of 15 years old in 2010.

The report, supported by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, includes letters from First Nations students across Canada on how the under-funding of schools and education on reserve impacts them and their futures.

Many of the letters echo this statement by Chelsea Edwards, youth spokesperson for the Shannen’s Dream campaign, “Just like Rosa Parks as she started the civil rights movement, we have been sitting at the back of the school bus our entire lives. It was Shannen who rose and walked to the front of the bus, with the company of many children. The back was not a place where we wanted to be, where NO ONE should be.”

Dream Team members say this to the United Nations: “As children and youth, we continue to write letters to the Government but nothing changes. The discrimination and denial of our rights continues. We need your help. Please read our letters. Please come to see us!”

In Her Own Words