Shannen Koostachin, a youth education advocate from of the Attawapiskat First Nation in Ontario, had a dream: safe and comfy schools and culturally based education for First Nations children and youth.
Many First Nations schools receive less funding per student than provincial and territorial schools, and zero dollars for things like libraries, computers, languages or extracurricular activities. Many also do not provide a safe and appropriate learning environment, and may pose serious health concerns, including mold contamination, high carbon dioxide levels, rodent infestations, sewage, and inadequate or lack of heating.
Shannen worked tirelessly to try to convince the federal government to give First Nations children a proper education. Unfortunately, she passed away in a car accident at the age of 15 before her dream could come true. But it did. On June 22, 2012—the day Shannen would have graduated—construction started for a new school in Attawapiskat. The new school opened in August 2014 (CBC).
Shannen remains an important role model for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children and young people who continue to carry her dream for safe and comfy schools for all First Nations children in Canada.
Reconciliation in Education
Education is the second priority area of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action, released in June 2015. In the report, the TRC calls on Canada to provide culturally based education for First Nations children, and to educate all Canadians about Aboriginal peoples to prepare them for the important work of reconciliation. This aligns with the Caring Society’s work on Shannen’s Dream, and our engagement of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children to end inequalities across all areas of First Nations children’s experience.
The Caring Society provides opportunities for children and youth of all backgrounds to collaborate, think creatively about the future and inspire one another to lead social change. We also support educators and schools across Canada in nurturing citizenship, agency and self-confidence by providing opportunities for students to take part in activities that foster reconciliation and culturally based equity for Aboriginal children and youth.
For ideas on how to bring reconciliation into your classroom, visit School Resources.
Media and Resources
- Equal education funding gets big results on Manitoba reserve (Macleans, 26 April 2016)
- A First Nations student testifies to his experience leaving home for school at the Thunder Bay Inquest (CBC, 7 April 2016)
- Deep Water: CBC's Jody Porter investigates the stories of First Nations youth who died while in attending school in Thunder Bay (CBC, 4 April 2016)
- Youth Voices Survey: First Nations youth share their perspectives on leaving home for school in Thunder Bay (Chiefs of Ontario, March 2016)
- Federal government accused of failing to provide equal education funding on First Nations reserves (CTV, 31 March 2016)
- First Nations students get 30 per cent less funding than other children, says economist (CBC, 14 March 2016)