Attawapiskat Students Left in Limbo as Funds for Education Not Available to Them

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AttawapiskatTHUNDER BAY – DEVELOPING – One of the big fears and concerns that the Chief and Council expressed about Attawapiskat and the impact of the Government’s decision to put Third Party Management in place appear to be coming to bear. Students who are funded for their education off-reserve are not receiving the payments that they need for food, rent and expenses.

The Third Party Government Manager is currently reported to be in Hawaii on holidays, and therefore unable to be reached by students. The Attawapiskat Chief and Council are fighting the imposition of the Third Party Manager in the courts, and are not co-operating with that manager as it would impact their court case.

The funds to pay the teachers have been put forward, but the funds for students have not. The payment would usually have gone in by direct deposit at the end of March. Attawapiskat teachers are receiving their salary since the Attawapiskat Education Authority has provided their names to the Third Party manager. It is possible that the names of the students might have been omitted. All of the students are members of Attawapiskat while not all of the teachers are from Attawapiskat.

Charlie Angus, reached in Ottawa said he has been trying to get answers on this issue from the Government Manager for several days and has not received any return to his calls. “This is either a matter of extreme incompetence, or it is a matter of the government seeking to punish the students,” commented Angus.

“Why are these students being held hostage by this government?” asked Angus. “We can not afford to let even one of these students lose their school year”.

Angus commented that in January and February the Attawapiskat Band paid the funds to the students. “The third party manager is receiving $20,000 per month,” noted Angus. “Some of the students can’t even get to school as they don’t even have the bus fare to get there”.

Left sitting in limbo are the students. Those students, studying in college and university have to rely on the students’ allowance to feed their families while finishing their studies. This incident has put them in a dire situation.

Calls to Minister John Duncan’s office on this matter have not been returned.

In February in the House of Commons, MP Charlie Angus questioned Minister John Duncan on this issue. Duncan claimed at the time that all funds were flowing to the students.

Here is that exchange:

Mr. Charlie Angus (Timmins—James Bay, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the minister, in order to punish the community, has actually cut off funding for the children. For two months, education dollars for that community have been cut off by the minister.

Education is a universal human right. It cannot be interfered with. It cannot be withheld. It cannot be used as a bargaining chip to force the submission of a band council that made the minister look bad.

Will the minister stand up in the House and explain to Canadians why he has cut off funding for children, for teachers and for high school students for two solid months? Explain that.

Hon. John Duncan (Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, CPC): Mr. Speaker, we have another fact-free question from the member for Timmins—James Bay. What he is saying is completely false.

We have asked for invoices from the chief and council. These were not forthcoming. As soon as the third party manager receives the information that he requires, the invoices will be paid.

There has been no threat to the school or the school children. That is a fact.

NetNewsledger will be updating on this developing story.

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