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Six Nations rally at federal Aboriginal Affairs
A rally at the federal Aboriginal Affairs building at 25 St. Clair Avenue East in Toronto on Oct. 11 marked the third protest in two weeks by Six Nations citizens and supporters.
Six weeks into the school year, textbooks, curriculum materials and other supplies that were ordered in May had yet to be delivered by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC). The Six Nations group was joined by members of the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) Union and the First Nations Solidarity Working Group of CUPE Local 3903.
Parents and supporters are concerned that the lack of supplies are leaving the children at a disadvantage. Cheyenne Williams, a 26-year-old mother with two children in elementary school, spoke at the rally.
“My daughter’s class,” she said, “they don’t even have textbooks. They’re working out of photocopies of last year’s textbooks.”
Claudine Van Every who has 30 years experience in the educational system called on the Regional Director General Joanne Wilkinson to come out and explain why an
organization like AANDC with its thousands of employees cannot process an order for textbooks and supplies.
“Our children deserve to be treated with respect,” she said, “and this organization, AANDC, is not respecting our children.”
Six Nations has yet to assume responsibility for elementary school education. According to elected Six Nations Councillor Wray Maracle, this latest move by AANDC is part of the government strategy to get Six Nations to the negotiating table.
“They (AANDC) are pressuring us, using the children of Six Nations to force us to take it over,” he said.
Maracle said AANDC’s offer is $7 million short of what is needed for Six Nations students to have a quality education.
Halfway through the rally, AANDC officials agreed to a meeting. One of the four Six Nations delegates, Claudine Van Every, was refused entry by AANDC. The other delegates were prohibited from taking cell phones or cameras into the building. After the meeting with RDG Wilkinson and four other AANDC staff, Cheyenne Williams reported that AANDC gave no reason for the delay and no timeline for expected delivery of the school supplies. They were also told that Six Nations school principals had advised AANDC they have the school supplies that are necessary.
“The parents and the children can tell you different,” said Williams.
An attempt to phone the RDG resulted in a referral to the AANDC Communications Branch which requested that all questions be emailed. According to a return email from Sandra Bertrand, acting director for Executive Services and Communications, AANDC emailed Six Nations on Oct. 11 confirming that all school supply orders were placed and processed. In regard to a question about the reason for delays, Bertrand said, in part, “The department is currently reviewing the procurement and delivery process to avoid future delays.”
Six Nations people and supporters will continue their efforts to seek accountability on behalf of their children. Councillor Maracle said they are prepared to go to the Prime Minister.
“That’s where all the marching orders come from,” he said.
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