This year, as many as 1,970 students will be starting a new school year in one of the six new schools in First Nations communities. These new schools will provide First Nation students with improved learning environments which will lead to stronger communities and hope for a brighter future.
On September 7, 2016, the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, was in Siksika Nation to congratulate the community on the completion of its new school.
The Minister had the opportunity to visit the Chief Crowfoot School which provides a new and improved learning environment for students of Siksika Nation, from preschool to Grade 6. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada provided $10.9 million towards the design and construction of this $21.3 million cost-shared project. The new school includes 14 classrooms, administrative offices, a gym, library, culture/multipurpose room, and computer lab, providing students with greater opportunities to learn.
In addition to Siksika Nation, new elementary and secondary schools opened for students this year in Pikangikum (ON), Fort Severn (ON), Poplar Hill (ON), O’Chiese (AB), and Kwakiutl (BC) First Nations.
“A learning environment that is healthy and culturally safe is critical in order for students to thrive and grow,” said Minister Bennett. “I am thrilled to start the new school year with the students of Siksika Nation, who now can be proud of their beautiful new elementary school. I commend Chief Vincent Yellow Old Woman, council members, the new Chief Crowfoot School Committee and the Siksika Board of Education leadership on their commitment to providing the essential ingredients to ensure student success in their community.”
During her remarks at the opening of the Chief Crowfoot School, Minister Bennett announced that $286.4 million has begun to flow into primary and secondary First Nations education in 2016-17. Flowing from $2.6 billion in funding for First Nations education announced in Budget 2016, communities will begin seeing the benefits of these investments, including targeted funding for language and culture, special needs education and literacy and numeracy this school year.
“We are committed to working in partnership with First Nations leaders and educators to make a significant difference in the lives of their students,” concluded Minister Bennett. “Today we take another step in addressing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, as we work together with First Nations to support their goals and our commitments for a quality education system. These investments are an important first step as we map out the way forward together.”
The federal government’s Budget 2016 will invest $969.4 million over five years for the construction, repair and maintenance of First Nations school facilities, as part of a long-term strategy to improve First Nations education infrastructure.
Siksika Nation is located approximately 110 km east of Calgary on the Trans-Canada Highway and has an on-reserve population of 4,183. The new Chief Crowfoot School can accommodate up to 300 students.