Get Lake St. Martin students back to school, minister urges
Manitoba's aboriginal affairs minister is urging the Lake St. Martin First Nation and the federal government to get young flood evacuees back into the classroom.
Eric Robinson is calling on federal and band officials to reach an agreement soon on resuming classes for the 68 children, who have been out of classes since their interim school was shut down by city inspectors last week.
The First Nation had been renting space in the building, a decomissioned junior high school on Ness Avenue, and using for Kindergarten to Grade 9 classes.
But the building was closed on Nov. 5, after inspectors issued a number of fire code and fire prevention bylaw violations.
First Nation officials have since been locked in a dispute with the federal Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Department, which wants to relocate the students to one of three other sites in Winnipeg.
But First Nation leaders have insisted on keeping the students at the Ness Avenue site, arguing that the children's lives have been disrupted enough since their home reserve was flooded in the spring of 2011.
"As soon as we were notified of the school closure, we arranged and offered alternate class space in the provincial school system to allow students to continue their studies together as a community," Robinson said in a release Friday.
"Allowing the students to fall further behind with this offer sitting on the table would be nothing short of irresponsible."
Chief Adrian Sinclair told CBC News that he has obtained the occupancy permit on Friday for the current school site, with the hopes of reopening it on Monday.
Sinclair said he has no interest in moving the students to the three other sites the federal government has proposed.
Robinson said the province is also offering to help the community develop an after-school program for the displaced students.