Sudbury

Kashechewan student funding decision by feds 'devastating'

The school year is off to a rocky start in Kashechewan First Nation.

Feds say Kashechewan must pay education costs for students forced to moved after spring flooding

Students from Kashechewan have been attending school in Kapuskasing for one month now. (CBC)

The school year is off to a rocky start in Kashechewan First Nation. 

CBC News has learned that the federal government will require Kashechewan to pay for the schooling of their students in Kapuskasing — and that sum could be between $400,000 and $1 million.

Spring flooding forced some Kashechewan students to move out of the community after their homes were destroyed.

Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus called the decision "devastating."

"That would cripple the community in terms of their education budget," he said.

The community fears that would put more stress on a school system that's already short of teachers.

"The government is going to take out a huge amount of money from the limited resources that's still in Kashechewan," Angus continued.

"It'll affect everything from the amount of teachers that are available, any kind of bare minimum special ed that they have. It's just really not fair."

But according to an email to CBC News from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, the "AANDC has yet to receive a proposal from the Kashechewan Chief and Council and the Hishkoonikun Education Authority for education services for the displaced students who are living in Kapuskasing."

It said departmental staff will continue to work closely with Kashechewan as they finalize their proposal and that "Kashechewan First Nation will continue to receive its full annual allocation of education funding for 2014-2015."

New school needed

These latest education woes are nothing new for the first nation

The elementary and high school facilities are in bad shape, and children in Kashechewan attend classes in portables.

"These are temporary structures, they're not meant to be permanent schools," Angus said.

Educators in the community say they've been waiting nearly a decade for a new elementary school.

At the high school, the problem is the roof, which has been leaking for seven years. The federal government has approved repairs, but the job hasn't been put to tender.

Already the faulty roof has proved hazardous, according to Kashechewan's director of education.
    
"[An] incident happened while they were having a funeral in there. [A] piece of the ceiling fell," Oliver Wesley said.

"Luckily nobody was injured or hurt."

Numerous homes in the community are also being repaired in the wake of spring flooding, which caused sewer backups.

The federal government says it "is taking concrete action by way of continued investment to improve education facilities."

In an email to CBC News, an AANDC spokesperson said "the federal government supports a spectrum of projects, ranging from: construction of new education facilities; renovation, repair, operations and maintenance of existing facilities; and design and planning of new projects.
 
"In April 2013, Minister Valcourt announced a commitment to support the cost of the construction phase of the Francine J. Wesley high school roof remediation project. We have recently approved the construction phase of the project, which the First Nation is preparing to tender.
 
"The commitment announced in April 2013 was in addition to previous federal government investment of nearly $20 million for the construction of temporary and permanent school facilities in Kashechewan First Nation, as well as for operation and maintenance support."

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