Honouring 'Shannen's Dream'

TORONTO, Nov. 16 /CNW/ - Shannen Koostachin was a youth leader in Attawapiskat. She came to national attention through her struggle to get the federal government to build a school in her James Bay community.  Last May, Shannen died in a tragic road accident.

For eight years the children of Attawapiskat had been going to school in poorly constructed portables. The failure of the federal government to follow through on a promise to build a "real" school ignited a determination in Shannen and her fellow students to bring this to the attention of the world. Shannen was in Grade 8 at the time and became an inspirational force in getting students from school boards across Canada involved in a letter-writing campaign to change conditions for the children of her community.

In 2009, the federal government promised the children of Attawapiskat a new school. It is November, 2010 and the school has yet to be built.

The Ontario Public School Boards' Association has joined with First Nations organizations, with teacher federations and with other education partners to advocate not only for the community of Attawapiskat but for fair and equitable education funding for all First Nation communities. 

"Canadians want the best for Aboriginal children and their families." said Catherine Fife, president of the Ontario Public School Boards' Association. "Children should have a continuum of consistent, equitable and high quality educational experiences regardless of where they live in Canada. This is not only a key to success but a basic human right."

Shannen's Dream is a campaign named in memory of a courageous young woman who sparked a passion to make sure all First Nations children across Canada have decent schools and the kind of education that makes them proud of who they are.

On Wednesday, November 17, a media conference to honour 'Shannen's Dream' will take place at Elgin Street Public School in Ottawa beginning at 1:30 p.m. Through a webcast, students from Attawapiskat will bring greetings to the students of Elgin Street Public School.  A Youth Panel has flown to Ottawa from Attawapiskat and will describe what it is like to go to school in make-shift portables.

At the media conference, Shannen Koostachin will be recognized posthumously through the Children's Rights Award from the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children. The award recognizes individuals or groups who demonstrate exemplary efforts to respect the rights of children as described in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It will be presented to Shannen's parents.

Date:               Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Time:              1:30 p.m.
Elgin Street Public School,
310 Elgin Street, Ottawa

SOURCE Ontario Public School Boards' Association

For further information: For further information:

Catherine Fife
President of the Ontario Public School Boards' Association
519-504-7364  president@opsba.org

Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director
First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada
613-230-5885 cblackst@fncaringsociety.com

Jeff Sprang
OPSBA Communications
416-340-2540  jsprang@opsba.org

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