Eabametoong First Nation Rallies to Establish Temporary School After Devastating Fire


Toronto – News – In the wake of a devastating arson attack that destroyed the sole educational institution in Eabametoong First Nation, the remote Ojibway community has embarked on a determined quest to establish a temporary school.

The John C. Yesno Education Centre, which served as both a school for approximately 300 students from kindergarten to Grade 9 and a communal gathering place, was consumed by flames on January 25th.

The community, located in northwestern Ontario, has since initiated cleanup operations to clear the debris and make way for the construction of a temporary educational facility, with building supplies now being transported into the area.

This effort underscores a significant commitment to ensuring that the displaced students can return to a structured learning environment as soon as possible.

Chief Solomon Atlookan of Eabametoong First Nation has expressed optimism, supported by government funding pledges, that the temporary school will open its doors by September. “There’s a real positive feeling that we are going to open a school for our children to go this fall,” he affirmed. The establishment of the temporary school is a beacon of hope, signaling resilience and progress amidst adversity.

In response to the arson, which led to charges against four teenagers, the community, along with the band council, has been proactive in minimizing educational disruptions.

Efforts have been bolstered by Ontario Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford, who has a personal connection to Eabametoong and has made several commitments to aid the community’s recovery. These initiatives include upgrading an unfinished treatment centre for school land-based programs, expanding the community hall for school activities, and enhancing youth recreation with artificial ice for the arena.

Despite weather challenges that have prevented Rickford from visiting Eabametoong, his and federal Minister Patty Hajdu’s intentions to visit signal strong governmental support.

Michael Tibollo, Ontario’s associate minister of mental health and addictions, has also shown interest in the community’s welfare.

Furthermore, planning for a new, permanent school was already in motion prior to the fire.

Chief Atlookan reassures that the construction of the temporary facility will not detract from the long-term goal of building a new school, ensuring that current funding and future educational prospects for Eabametoong First Nation remain secure. This steadfast dedication to education amidst crisis reflects the community’s resilience and the collaborative spirit between Eabametoong First Nation and governmental partners.

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