Sheshegwaning FN family lobbies for child to be able to attend off-reserve school

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Says Charter of Rights is being violated

SHESHEGWANING—A Sheshegwaning First Nation woman is seeking help from Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing MP Carol Hughes in lobbying to allow for her grandson to attend an off-reserve elementary school (Charles C. McLean Public School in Gore Bay). She says at the current time a Sheshegwaning Band Council Resolution (BCR) prevents on-reserve children from attending off-reserve schools other than the community school.

Amelia Sampson feels the BCR is a violation of her Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“I’m having a hard time at the school,” Ms. Sampson told the Recorder last Friday. “I have always sent my children to school in Gore Bay (C.C. MC Lean). I sent my two daughters Erica and Audrey to (C.C. McLean) and I had to pay $2,000 to $3,000 per year, plus tuition on top of that for them to go there. It took me a long time to get my money back but I did. But I know of another case where the band administration made a mistake and another family was allowed to have their children attend an off-reserve school at no charge.”
“I approached the school and the band council before school started, but we were told the BCR stops us from sending my grandson to an off-reserve school,” said Ms. Sampson.

Ms. Sampson, in a letter to MP Hughes, wrote in part, “I am an Indigenous woman from Sheshegwaning First Nation. I am currently raising my six-year-old grandson Dustin Sampson here in Sheshegwaning First Nation.

“Sheshegwaning First Nation has a school here in the community called St. Joseph’s Anishinabek School, with grades from pre-K to Grade 8. This is where Dustin currently attends school,” wrote Ms. Sampson. “As my local MP for Manitoulin, I wish to draw to your attention to the problems I have incurred with St. Joseph’s Anishinabek School. My concern is that I would like to transfer my grandson Dustin to a school in Gore Bay, Charles C. McLean Public School where he can learn the French language (as all my children have learned the French language), as the St. Joseph’s Anishinabek School does not have a French language program in their school. I do realize the importance of Dustin learning his Ojibway language and Indigenous heritage but this can be obtained from his family and community.”

“My issue is that Sheshegwaning First Nation has a BCR preventing on-reserve children to attend off-reserve schools other than the community school,” continued Ms. Sampson. “This BCR is preventing me from sending my grandson Dustin to a school where he can obtain and benefit from a better quality education system and one that offers the French language program. I feel this BCR is a violation against my Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom under section (23): Section 23 of the Charter requires provincial and territorial governments to provide education to Canadians in the official language of their choice, even in areas where a minority of residents speaks that language.”

“I’ve approached the band council and administration and the school and have been told the BCR stops us from sending my grandson to school in Gore Bay,” Ms. Sampson told the Recorder. 

“I feel it is important for my grandson to blend in with non-Native students and get along with all students,” said Ms. Sampson. Her grandson Dustin is currently in Grade 1. “They love him at the school, and I like this community. I think a lot of the parents would do like to do the same thing we are looking at. But when I talk to the chief and council they don’t hear anything. I can’t handle all these regulations. It is sad what is taking place.”

MP Hughes told the Recorder, “I just received the letter (from Ms. Sampson). We will be looking in to all of this. My office has started work on this to get a better understanding of the whole structure.” 

“I feel that I should have the right to choose where my grandson will attend school,” said Ms. Sampson. “The band council should not withhold their students from wanting to experience a different school experience and programs.” 

The Recorder was unable to reach Sheshegwaning Chief Dean Roy for comment prior to this week’s press deadline.