Federal, provincial governments announce funding for NAN-led student safety plan

The Ontario and federal governments say they’ve committed $10 million to an action plan developed by the Nishnawbe Aski Nation that aims to keep students safe when they come to Thunder Bay for school.

The plan sprung out of talks this summer involving chiefs from First Nations across northern Ontario fearful about the safety of Indigenous young people when they move to the Lakehead from their communities.

“Our governments are committed to doing all we can to ensure that First Nations students have access to a safe and supportive learning environment, regardless of where they live in the province,” read a joint statement from Carolyn Bennett, Canada’s minister of Indigenous and northern affairs, Mitzie Hunter, Ontario’s minister of education and NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler.

The province will contribute $5.5 million for the 2017-2018 school year, while Ottawa will fund $4.67 million for the coming three years, according to a written release.

The announcement was made Wednesday while Aboriginal Legal Services was releasing a one year “report card,” grading how parties named in recommendations arising from the inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations students in Thunder Bay were responding.

Ontario and the Nishnawbe Aski Nation each received a C+ while the federal government was graded a D. NAN has said that available funding has been a barrier to implementing recommendations in a timely fashion.

Action plan to help students, says NAN

Talks to develop the action plan were held in Thunder Bay in July during an emergency chiefs meeting on student safety.

According to Wednesday’s statement, the action plan will include things like “immediate steps” to support youth living away from home, on-call workers to support students from NAN communities, a boarding home pilot project designed to better arrange housing needs and an “urban-living curriculum,” that will address health, safety and attending school far away from home.

Supports for students who want to pursue their education in their home communities or in other cities are also part of the plan.

“This funding meets the short-term priorities established by our emergency education task force,” Fiddler was quoted as saying in Wednesday’s announcement. “This is a tremendous accomplishment in such a short period of time.”

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