Minister of Indigenous Affairs money a good start, but more is needed

Robbie Purdon
APTN National News
The Long Point First Nation has waited a long time for a new school. It’s been 10 years since their last one was shut down due to mold.

But last week Minister of Indigenous Affairs Carolyn Bennet traveled to the community, located 8 hours northwest of Montreal, to open a new school.

“We have turned the page to understand that Indigenous pedagogy is the way that we have to go forward,” said Bennett.

The new school comes with a cafeteria, gymnasium and science lab. Standard for schools in the south, but quite the luxury for Long Point.

“We did have a gymnasium at the old school, but it had to be converted into classrooms, so we haven’t had a gymnasium since 2008,” said Amo Ososwan director of education, Leonard Polson.

Chief Derek Mathias said having a cafeteria makes a big difference.

“The reason we asked for a cafeteria is to get a breakfast program in place and to suit the parents need, because parents are rushing to work in the morning.”

He added that he’s noticing a difference in attitude with his children.

“My daughters are very excited too. They wake up in the morning now enthusiastic to attend school,” he said.

While in Long Point Bennett announced nearly $10 million for infrastructure in the community. Just a day before, a $3 million investment in Lac Simon’s Elementary school was announced- a school the community has been waiting 10 years to expand.

“This is a very full school and a population that’s growing very rapidly, so for us to be able to announce some help in making the school bigger,” said Mathias.

Assembly of First NationRegional Chief for Quebec and Labrador Ghislain Picard reminded the community that more help is needed.

“We certainly welcome the support from the federal government…they’re meeting the needs today, but they’ll have to make sure that they meet the needs tomorrow as well,” he said.

Picard knows that the new Liberal government is trying to catch up due to the previous government not meeting expectations of Indigenous communities across Canada.

He said that they have inherited a tough challenge, but says the feds are the ones who made the promises.

“I think it also puts out in the open the whole issue of the relationship between communities like Winneway and others and making sure that there’s a proper financial or fiscal relationship between our communities and the federal government.”

The director of education at Amikobo elementary says he already sees more needs in the future.

“Already I’m in need of 8 classes that I don’t have in my school, already with the current needs, and we foresee in the next 6 or 7 years, we’re going to have almost a hundred more students than what we already have. This is due to a demographic study done in the community, said Luc Letourneau.

It’s the same situation in Long Point.

“16 students from pre-K all the way up to high school. So now like I said, the pre-K has already exceeded 16, so next year kindergarten is going to be exceeding that.”

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