Shannen’s Dream

Liam Sharp

In my inbox today, I received an email from the interim leader of the NDP. In summary, the House of Commons has voted to ensure First Nation communities will receive the same funding for schooling as other non-Native communities.

The discrepancies I noticed while working in the James Bay area were glaring. I asked a high school teacher how many of her students went on to post-secondary education, she told me that her school didn’t offer those “academic” courses. But for those who do want to go to university, they must take their courses from another school, in another town. Consequently, from her community, about 1% of her students attended post-secondary education.

I was dumbstruck. There was not a chance in the world that my high school wouldn’t offer these courses. Even if there were a small number of students taking a course, they would still offer it, no questions asked. I never had to worry that my school would lose power, if the computer lab had enough desktops, or if there was mold growing in the walls.

Here is a short documentary on the situation in Attawapiskat; I highly suggestion watching it.

And this is the email that I received from the NDP interim leader.

Thank you for your previous email on issues related to Aboriginal Affairs.

Let me assure you that New Democrats have been working hard to address the pressing issues confronting our First Nations communities towards the goal of building a new relationship between the government and First Nations leadership.

I am pleased to report that on Monday night, the House of Commons voted unanimously to adopt a New Democrat motion to end the funding discrimination faced by First Nation schoolchildren across Canada.

Our landmark motion was inspired by the life and legacy of Shannen Koostachin, a First Nations youth from Attawapiskat who had a dream that all First Nation children should be able to get an education in clean, “comfy” schools just as non-Native children. New Democrats have been involved with the Shannen’s Dream campaign from the beginning and we continue to be inspired by youth across the country who have been working hard to keep this dream alive.

It is shameful that in a rich country like Canada, First Nations students receive on average $2,000 to $3,000 less support for their education per year than other Canadian students. That is discounting the non-investment in computers, lab equipment, libraries and other basic supports. We must do better. As MP Charlie Angus, who worked with Shannen to get the children of James Bay coast a proper school, recently commented: “It’s great to see that we have all parties finally agreeing on this motion – it is now up to the government to live up to the democratic will of the House and actually implement these principles as soon as possible. We cannot let another generation down by not acting.”

Read more here:;; and,

With the passage of our motion, Canada is one step closer to making Shannen’s Dream a reality. Rest assured that our team will be gauging the seriousness of the Conservatives’ commitment on this crucial issue in the upcoming budget.

Again, thank you for your ongoing interest on this important issue.

Best regards,

Nycole Turmel, M.P.
Interim Leader of the Official Opposition
New Democratic Party of Canada

This injustice has to end. We can no longer treat the First Nation population as a third-class citizens in a first-world country.

For more information, please read this in depth article from Canadian Geographic.
Canadian Geographic Dec 2010: Still Waiting in Attawapiskat


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