Lucy Paibomsai at Shawanosowe School Photo courtesy of Chief Paibomsai.

Lucy Paibomsai, young student at Shawanosowe School in Whitefish River First Nation. Photo courtesy of Chief Paibomsai.

By Kelly Anne Smith

WHITEFISH RIVER FIRST NATION—The Chief of Whitefish River First Nation (WRFN) is calling for fundamental change in Canada and he wants it to start in education.

Chief Paibomsai says wellness, education, and the economy are his top priorities for his community. “All of the evidence from the Supreme Court of Canada, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Royal Commission for Aboriginal Peoples, the Penner Report, the Ipperwash inquiry, the Manitoba Justice Inquiry, the Eyford Report, the Truth and Reconciliation Report, and the recent human rights tribunal decision about children say that the government needs to do a deep reset on its approaches, its practices, and its policies that have been inflicted onto Indigenous Peoples.”

The Whitefish River First Nation is set to vote on the Anishinabek Education System (AES) between November 28 and December 2, 2016. Off-reserve voting takes place on November 28-29, 2016.

Chief Paibomsai, also known as Chief Shining Turtle of the Sturgeon Clan, wants to strengthen the work on WRFN priorities in education and says that the AES will allow that to happen.

“Some examples will be to promote more inclusion of culture and especially language within our school in our context,” stated Paibomsai. “And allow more flexibility to grow our curriculum towards more indigenous knowledge and values from our lands, customs and traditions.”

The Chief says Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) has not kept up with the current needs in today’s classroom.

“We, like many other bands, live year to year on the resources provided by INAC to sustain every aspect of our school from the structure to the outcomes,” stated Paibomsai. “Unfortunately, those resources have been outstripped by our students and community and we see the gap widening and not closing when it comes to quality education that all our students deserve.”

WRFN children and youth are missing out on the benefits of having a gymnasium because of a policy change with a change in government alleges Chief Paibomsai. “We have dreams about having school expansion plans that includes daycare,” noted Paibomsai.

The Chief says there must be 87 students in a school system to be eligible for school expansion and a school gymnasium. “The number was 65 students under the Liberals and moved to 87 students under the Harper Conservatives, ” noted Paibomsai.

Chief Paibomsai asserts the situation is dire. “Our people are dying from the thousand cuts of the actions of INAC. This is literally life and death for all our peoples. We simply cannot let this go on any longer.”

The current system controlled by INAC gives appropriations from Parliament from time to time and doesn’t cut it in a 21st century classroom, he stated. “INAC will not fund a technologically innovative school using full smart boards, MAC’s, e-learning and complemented with the associated infrastructure to support such innovation.”

Chief Paibomsai states that INAC is not ‘Captain Canada’ defending against Indigenous rights to a powerful education. “There have been decades of policies and laws – all with a goal of denial, dismissal, delay, and destruction.  And I am not speaking of ancient policies, laws and Crown practices. This is all at work today, right now.”

Voting for the Anishinabek Education System On-Reserve will take place on November 30, December 1, and 2, 2016, between 9a.m. and 8p.m. The voting station for Whitefish River First Nation is at Whitefish River First Nation Community Centre, 6 Rainbow Valley Road, Birch Island.

Additional voting information:

In-person Off-Reserve voting takes place at five (5) Urban Centre Voting Stations on November 28 and 29, 2016, from 9a.m.- 8p.m. The Urban Centre locations are in: Toronto, London, Thunder Bay, Sudbury, and Sault Ste. Marie.

In-person On-Reserve voting takes place on November 30, December 1 and 2, 2016, from 9a.m. to 8p.m. For additional information on voting stations in each community, visit the AES website.

Mail-In Ballots must be received by December 2, 2016, at 8 p.m.