A coalition of B.C. parent groups says it can no longer wait for the province to speed up seismic upgrades of schools and it wants the federal government to step in.

The coalition sent a letter calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government to use some of the funds slated for infrastructure projects to upgrade seismically unsound schools.

"The buildings in which our children spend the majority of their day should keep them safe in an earthquake, not present a compounded threat and jeopardize their safety," the letter read.

"Seismically upgrading schools is an urgent matter of public safety. Why is the safety of our children discussed in the context of political games and priorities and treated as an education budget item?"

The letter says funding seismic upgrades to B.C. schools should be the responsibility of both the federal Ministry of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and Ministry of Infrastructure and Communities. The writers argue federal funding would take pressure off the provincial education budget as well as provide more immediate safety for students.

'Not good enough'

Jennifer Stewart, of the Parent Advocacy Network for Public Education, one of the groups that co-wrote of the letter, says it was penned because the province isn't moving fast enough.

She pointed out there are still 166 schools that need to begin seismic mitigation projects.

"We say that's not good enough," she told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn. "In Vancouver and Richmond alone, there are 35,000 kids in high-risk buildings … and we say that's unacceptable."

Stewart says schools are essential from a public safety standpoint as well, because in the event of an earthquake, public buildings will be needed for emergency shelter

Infrastructure Canada responded to this story by saying it received the letter, and said the Government of Canada is working with Emergency Management B.C. to "update and revise a Government of Canada earthquake response protocol" and is working "to develop the next phase of the infrastructure plan for long-term transformative change."

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast


To hear the full interview with Jennifer Stewart, click the audio labelled: Parents groups ask feds to pay for seismic upgrades to B.C. schools