OTTAWA, Nov. 16 /CNW/ - Children, First Nation leaders, educators and human rights activists are coming to Ottawa to honour the memory of an extraordinary First Nations young woman. Shannen Koostachin from Attawapiskat First Nation in Ontario was just 15 years old when she died in a tragic car accident this past spring. In her short life, she put the issue of the systemic under-funding of First Nation schools and education on the national agenda. To celebrate the life of this extraordinary young woman the Canadian Coalition on the Rights of the Child will make a special award presentation in recognition of her extraordinary work advancing the education rights of children at a ceremony at Elgin Street Public School on November 17, 2010.
Shannen had never seen a real school. Children in Attawapiskat were being educated in rundown standalone portable trailers set on a toxic brownfield and next to an active airstrip. Shannen was only 13 years old when she led a group of students from her isolated James Bay community to Ottawa to ask the federal government why they had broken promise after promise to build the children a proper school. She also invited thousands of non-Aboriginal children to write letters to the federal government to demand proper schools and equitable education for all First Nations children. Thousands of non-Aboriginal children answered the call. Shannen's campaign helped inspire one of the largest child-driven, child's rights movement in Canadian history. At the age of 14 she was one of only 45 children in the world nominated for the International Children's Peace Prize awarded by the Nobel Laureates. As Charlie Angus, Member of Parliament explains "Shannen inspired non-Aboriginal children across Canada to stand up for the rights of Aboriginal children. This young woman had moxy and determination. She made other children believe that if they stood up they too could make a difference." Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society adds "All she wanted is the same opportunity to learn as other children - that is not too much to ask."
Shannen never lived to see her dream of a proper school in Attawapiskat nor did she see other children on reserves get equitable education funding. Inspired by her vision, First Nations leaders, educators, labour and human rights groups have joined Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children and youth to launch the Shannen's Dream campaign. The campaign calls on the federal government to close the gap in funding for on reserve schools and education so First Nations children have the same opportunity to learn as non-Aboriginal children in off reserve schools.
For further information:
www.shannensdream.ca Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, 613 853 8440