MEDIA RELEASE NNEC hopes First Nation youth inquest leads to improved student safety Sioux Lookout (October 1, 2015) The Executive Director of Northern Nishnawbe Education Council (NNEC) is expressing her hope and expectation that the Coroner’s Inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations youth who attended high school in Thunder Bay will lead to substantive recommendations to improve student safety. The inquest into the deaths of Jethro Anderson, Curran Strang, Paul Panacheese, Robyn Harper, Reggie Bushie, Kyle Morriseau and Jordan Wabasse is scheduled to begin October 5, 2015 in Thunder Bay. Six of the students were attending NNEC’s Dennis Franklin Cromarty (DFC) High School in Thunder Bay, and all seven students were federally funded under Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada. Norma Kejick, NNEC’s Executive Director, hopes the inquest will address the systemic shortfalls in both funding and the range of programming needed to support students who have to leave their home First Nations for high school. “We are looking for the inquest to provide recommendations on how we can avoid more student deaths in the future,” Kejick said. “We admire and appreciate the strength of the families of these students who have come together to support the inquest.” One key area Kejick hopes the inquest addresses is the need for a student residence for students coming to Thunder Bay from First Nations communities. “We know that a student residence for our students run by NNEC would dramatically improve the safety, retention and academic success of our students as they attend high school in both provincial and our NNEC high schools,” Kejick said. “Unfortunately we have been unable to get government funding for a student residence.” NNEC expects that the inquest will address the lack of funding provided for after-school programming for students, as well as the shortfall in funding for programs run at DFC to keep students safe and look for them if they go missing. “This is not a 9 to 5 job working at DFC,” said Jonathan Kakegamic, DFC Principal. “Everyone who works at DFC is here because they care about the students. They go above and beyond to do everything possible to keep students safe and help them succeed. But we are limited by a lack of funding.” DFC also struggles with receiving less education funding per student than provincial high schools, something NNEC hopes will also be addressed by the inquest. “We have learned from these tragedies and made many improvements in ensuring the safety and success of our students over the years,” Kejick said. “The results in our high schools reflect those improvements. But there remains much more that must be done and it will take increased funding and a partnership approach among the federal government, the schools, the police and others to help ensure no other student dies while attending school away from home.” -30- For more information contact: Norma Kejick Executive Director Northern Nishnawbe Education Council 807-737-0212 or email: NKejick@nnec.on.ca Jonathan Kakegamic Principal Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School 807-623-8914 or email: JKakegamic@nnec.on.ca
Dennis Franklin Cromarty is a private First Nations high school in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Through excellence in academics, traditional learning and lots of fun, the Thunder Hawks are proud to become all we can be!