Hundreds rally for education

Hundreds gathered in the shadow of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill Thursday, waving flags and placards, drumming and dancing, in one of the largest rallies this year by First Nations people who came from as far away as New Brunswick to demand federal politicians reverse the dismal quality of education on reserves.

APTN National News
Hundreds gathered in the shadow of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill Thursday, waving flags and placards, drumming and dancing, in one of the largest rallies this year by First Nations people who came from as far away as New Brunswick to demand federal politicians reverse the dismal quality of education on reserves.

A group of about 12 people walked 150 kilometres from Kitigan Zibi, Que., arriving in Ottawa Thursday to make a statement about the immediate need faced by First Nations communities on education.

“Our community does not receive equitable funding as to the neighbouring provincial schools,” said Anita Tenasco, Kitigan Zibi’s director of education and one of the walkers. “This is what our walk is about, bringing awareness to the Canadian public.”

AFN National Chief Shawn Atleo said it was time for the government to step up their investment in education.

He said Ottawa needed to partner with communities and give First Nations children the opportunities they need to get ahead and break the crippling cycle that debilitates so many reserves.

“This is going to continue until we see change in people’s lives in the communities…this is about what is going to happen to the young people that are here today,” said Atleo. “We need some expression of commitment from the government and we need it soon.”

Atleo said the government needs to come through with $2 billion in education funding to bring the level of education available to First Nations children on par with their provincial counterparts.

Indian Affairs Minister John Duncan spoke at the rally and said his government was already spending $1.4 billion a year on First Nations education and $200 million on fixing and building schools.

“There is clearly a need for First Nations children to succeed and for the system to improve. We also know that there is not a one size fits all approach that will work, so we are willing to work in partnership and we have been demonstrating that very clearly,” said Duncan.

RCMP officers estimated about 800 people at the rally, one of the largest First Nations rallies in the last couple of years.

“I’m here to support everybody, everyone all in Ontario, all the little communities, students who don’t have school,” said Oola Akavak, 20, originally from Nunavut, but attending an alternative high school in Ottawa. “It just hurts me to know that they don’t have any school to learn.”

Pierce Trudeau, 15, from Sagamok First Nation in northern Ontario, said he was there to ensure he could get higher education.

“I’m here to protest for our post-secondary education funding so we can get somewhere in life,” said Trudeau.

While he spoke, drums pounded and pow wow dancers swirled on the steps of Parliament Hill.

And there was an edge to the rally.

While he spoke, Batchewana First Nation Chief Dean Sayers turned toward the Parliament buildings and warned the politicians inside that First Nation communities would be taking it to the streets and railways if the government didn’t listen.

“Unfortunately our people are at the threshold. There is going  to be things happening this fall, this winter and this spring, that whether or not Canada likes it, will draw the attention of the world,” said Sayers, whose community is in northern Ontario.

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3 thoughts on “Hundreds rally for education

  1. I was on parliament hill at the rally and question the journalist reports of “hundreds” of supporters????? rnrnAPTN, is counting not your strong suit? I counted a thousand people on the right side of the group and saw clearly that at least this same number was mirrored on the other side of the walk. 800 people marched from Victoria Island and met a huge crowd when we arrived! And 28 more buses full of supporters arrived on the hill around the same time. rnrnWe can’t always count on non-aboriginal reporting, but I did think we could count on APTN!

  2. Did APTN drop the ball regarding Parliament Hill Education Rally? Not enough coverage at all.
    Yeah, on Thurs, Sept 23, 2010 at the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill, there was a crowd of perhaps a thousand First Nations people from across Canada, all in unity demanding equality from the Federal Gov’t regarding Educational Funding. It was such a proud day for us, especially the inspiring march from Victoria Island up Wellington street to the Hill.
    We were strong and proud.
    The Canadian media has largely ignored the demonstration and also similar demonstrations that occurred across the country; there’s been minimum coverage in the Canadian media because the best way to silence the voice is to simply not cover the story and not let it get in the press.

    We expect that from Canada, but we expected much better treatment from the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN).

    Tonight, Fri, Sept 24, I watched the APTN National News and APTN InFocus and saw an entire segment dedicated to some Middle Eastern man in the Far North who got a mosque sent up there, and I saw the long gun registry issue which is a small potatoes distraction from real issues facing Canada, but I saw NO COVERAGE on APTN of that proud March to Parliament Hill yesterday.
    I personally saw an APTN vehicle there and an APTN reporter, but where was the coverage on APTN television?
    Totally unacceptable and irresponsible.
    It’s selling our children and adolescents down the river by turning a blind eye to this issue just as the Federal Gov’t does to us.

    For years, Chiefs and First Nation Education Directors across the land have repeatedly stated to Ottawa about the vast disparity in Educational Funding between provincial schools and schools on First Nations, and our severe under-funding in comparison with provincial schools, but they have been ignored.
    This Rally on Parliament Hill was a response to constantly being ignored, and it was a strong statement where visibility of the masses of First Nations people on the Hill who came from far-and-wide was key to show the support and unity of the First Nations people, to make this vital issue visible to the public, but the media has failed to make it visible.

    With Canadian media choosing to ignore our March just as Ottawa has ignored our Education Directors for years, we were absolutely certain that APTN was the one media outlet that we could count on, that wouldn’t let us down.

    Did we count wrong?

    We did our part by coming from far-and-wide to be on the Hill to show support where visibility was key; you better do your part.
    I traveled over 500 Km solely for that Rally, and I met other people there that traveled much further because they believed it was their duty.

    I demand APTN cover that story and that March in depth and in focus.
    The disparity in funding, that the educational budget for First Nations schools hasn’t been revised in 22 years while provincial schools’ budgets are adjusted and increased annually; cover it all.
    They tried to take away our culture with the residential schools, and now they still don’t want to do the right thing with proper equitable education and decent schools that they give to all other Canadians.
    2nd class citizens.
    Canadians have this mistaken idea that Indians don’t pay taxes and want handouts, but 65% to 70% of Registered Indians in Canada live off-reserve and subsequently pay the same federal, provincial, municipal, and customs taxes as all other Canadians. The remaining 30% to 35% live on-reserve and don’t have to pay income tax re The Indian Act (which should be scrapped altogether by the way), but even they pay all the consumption-related taxes every time they leave the Reserve.

    APTN, don’t let the voices on the Hill be silenced.

    I am uploading my short video clips of the Rally to YouTube as others have begun to do; I didn’t realize these short clips made by the participants on the Hill would be the main public record that anything transpired that proud day yesterday at all.

    Do the right thing for our people and the education of our children; cover that story in depth, make us proud.

    Bradley Wabshki-Mukwa Robinson
    Timiskaming First Nation, Quebec.

  3. That’s great to see this development. The First Nations need to be as educated as the world around them becomes yet retain the Traditional Values too. I hope there is a required element of “Traditionalism” in their application as well. So the question then becomes who qualifies and regulates those elements of Traditionalism?

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