Parents and community members expressed their anger last week after a visit by the federal Minister of Indigenous Services produced little more than a speech about the community’s nearly 40-year struggle to obtain funding for a language immersion school.
Last Wednesday’s visit by ISC Minister Marc Miller was heralded with much anticipation – as well as signs of protest – culminating in a stark announcement that he could not pledge any funding for a new school of Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo language immersion.
Parents and community members held signs comparing the state of the school and lack of funding to ongoing punishment reminiscent of the residential school days, when Indigenous children were forced to give up their languages and learn English in boarding schools run by the church.
Students and staff have been learning in makeshift buildings around the reserve since the school was established in the 1980s.
Miller said he wanted to see the school built but couldn’t promise anything.
“We want this done,” he told about 150 people gathered in the parking lot of the Iroquois Lacrosse Arena last week, where students are currently learning in makeshift classrooms on the second floor of the building. ‘building. “We are here to see it done and this is the job I need to get back to my government and do it.”
Miller said supporting languages and culture in Canada is a “high priority for this government,” but the money just isn’t there.
“That’s what we need to go back and finish. It is a project for which you have fought for a long time and for which I am only just beginning to fight. I am very aware of a request that is in progress to finance the building.
My government should focus on getting the funding you need to build a new school.
He told the group, “I can’t promise anything today. I think the worst thing that can happen is making false promises and not being able to keep them. This is something that I want to see happen and that has the attention of my government. I am ready to fight for it. If I could write a check today, I’d probably be a much more dangerous person than I already am.
However, everyone is looking for money in the same pot, as reserves across the country face vast underfunding in all walks of life.
“Your school is part of a process that is competitive in nature that is vastly oversubscribed,” Miller said. “I know those are hard words to hear. It’s something I want to see happen, whether through this process or another, and I bear the responsibility for that failure if it doesn’t happen. I’m not here to apologize. I hope to come back here in the future so we can have a brighter day. I recognize that language is life. It’s something close to my heart. »
He said he would work with Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo principal Jeremy Green and the school team to secure funding for new construction.
Land for a new building has already been designated adjacent to Six Nations Polytechnic on Fourth Line Road, and bids are currently being accepted for site servicing work on the property.
ISC has already approved the design construction.
They just need the funding now – up to $30 million.
Because of Covid, the cost per square foot has increased significantly from its previous estimate of $18 million, said school board president Ruby Jacobs.
“We believe that the education of these children’s education is the responsibility of the federal government,” she said. “These children have been going to school under these circumstances since 1986. Teachers and programming funding are also minimal.”
SAC funds the school’s annual operations to the tune of $4 million, but this number is expected to increase after the construction of a new school due to the size of the building and the increased number of staff and staff. students.
There will be a substantial increase in the number of families applying to attend the school, she said.
“They want this. It’s a small area that we have now.
About 120 students attend KG now. The new school could accommodate 300 or more students.
In light of the fact that the Canadian federal government has not announced funding for the construction of KGPS schools, Jacobs had words of determination: “That won’t stop us from continuing our crucial work of sustaining and revitalizing languages, culture, knowledge and the Onkwehon:we way of life. Nothing changes for us today. We will continue to do what we have done. Tenders have recently been launched for phase I of the construction and maintenance of the Kawenní:io-Gawęni:yo school site. We are proceeding as planned. »
If the federal government is funding the school, the KGPS Board of Directors will review all funding offers before accepting them to ensure that all requirements for receiving funding to build a school are consistent with the philosophy, the vision, mission and objectives of Kawenni. Private school:io-Gawęni:yo.
Green reiterated the need for support: “We encourage individuals, families, teams, businesses, entrepreneurs, associations, corporations, philanthropists and local, regional, national and international governments and organizations to donate. to our building fund. We thank those who have already donated. We also thank those who have helped promote and increase awareness of our situation – that we have no school. Our children matter. It is time these children had a school.
To get involved or donate, please email KGPS Director Jeremy Green at [email protected], KGPS Board Secretary at [email protected] or call the school at (905) 768-7203 or by texting (519) 770-7233. Donations can be sent by check to the address at the top of the first page, by electronic transfer to [email protected]