Actions to address Northern Ontario First Nations health and safety crisis applauded, but more support needed

TORONTO, July 26, 2017 /CNW/ - The Ontario Public School Boards' Association's Indigenous Trustees' Council (ITC) is expressing concern at the ongoing health and safety challenges faced by Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) students who leave their families and communities on reserve to attend school.

In a letter sent today to Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and David Zimmer, provincial Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, Elaine Johnston, Chair of the ITC, writes, "The ITC supports the Northern Ontario Chiefs' efforts to draw attention to these challenges facing Indigenous students, youth and families and we applaud the recent NAN action plan developed to help address those very same challenges. We also acknowledge and are encouraged by the very recent announcement by the provincial government outlining actions to address First Nations youth health and safety crisis in coordination with First Nations communities as well as additional federal funding to help improve health care access."

In light of the recent high-profile crisis in Thunder Bay, the ITC is urging both the provincial and federal governments to continue to work together to provide Indigenous students who attend schools off reserve with the resources required to help ensure their well-being, health and safety while successfully integrating into their new communities.

"More action is needed in the short term. The recent announcement of additional funding and resources by the provincial and federal governments is an encouraging first step," says Johnston. "Hopefully, it will be the start of a sustained, long term approach to help support these students in their academic pursuits."

School boards continue to do good work in assisting Indigenous students who attend school off reserve. However, support for specific practices known to help these students is not yet systemic, and needs to be increased so that all Indigenous students attending school off reserve have equitable access to sufficient services and programming.

Background

Letter to Ministers Bennett and Zimmer

The Ontario Public School Boards' Association represents public district school boards and public school authorities across Ontario, which together serve more than 1.2 million public elementary and secondary students. The Association advocates on behalf of the best interests and needs of the public school system in Ontario. OPSBA is seen as the credible voice of public education in Ontario and is routinely called on by the provincial government for input and advice on legislation and the impact of government policy directions.

SOURCE Ontario Public School Boards' Association

For further information: May Moore, Director of Communications, Ontario Public School Boards' Association, mmoore@opsba.org, (416) 340-2540, ext. 111

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