Mediation underway at Alberta First Nations school after teacher walk-out

A mediator has been brought in to work with band councillors and school staff at a First Nations in northern Alberta after a walk-out last week stretched into four days of protests.

Teachers and staff, along with some families that support their stance, picketed near the band office at Whitefish Lake First Nation, demanding that the management team of the local school be dismantled and the acting principal removed.

Protesters said they had collected 350 signatures on a petition supporting their demands for Pakan Elementary and Junior High School. Whitefish Lake First Nation #128 is located about 70 kilometres southeast of Lac La Biche, Alta.

Fourteen staff have filed grievances stemming from long-standing concerns of mismanagement, bullying and a toxic work environment.

Band administration brought in a mediator Monday to work with staff, according to a statement from Indigenous Services Canada (ISC)

“We have been monitoring the situation in Whitefish Lake First Nation closely, and our department officials have been in touch with the community to support them in their resolution of the issue,” wrote Kevin Deagle, press secretary for Indigenous Services Minister Seamus O’Regan.

First Nations, which receive federal funding to deliver education services, are ultimately responsible for managing and resolving school administration issues, officials added. 

Chief Tom Houle and councillors from the Whitefish First Nation band declined to provide comment to the CBC.

Grandparent Lorna Jackson-Littlewolfe urged the band’s leaders to listen to the concerns of the school staff.

“Their grievances aren’t for nothing,” Jackson-Littlewolfe said about the dispute.

“They have concerns for our kids, they have concerns for our school, how things are running there.”


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