SHANNEN’S DREAM — School children show their support for Shannen’s dream at a June 6 rally in front of the Saskatchewan Legislature. Thirteen-year-old Shannen Koostachin’s dream was to have equitable education opportunities for Aboriginal education. (Flegel photo)
School children seek equal opportunities
By Frank Flegel
REGINA — All she wanted was the same educational opportunities
available to everyone else and when that was denied 13-year-old Shannen
Koostachin from the Attawapiskat First Nation decided to do something
about it. It was her dream to have equitable education opportunities
for Aboriginal education.
“She understood that it is her right to have an education in a
school that was similar to other schools in Canada,” said Karen
Gooden, teacher a St. Bernadette Roman Catholic elementary school. Gooden
was addressing a June 6 rally in front of the Saskatchewan Legislature
Building. “Shannon wanted to be a lawyer and because that opportunity
wasn’t available at her school she attended a school hundreds of
miles from her family. Her dream was never fulfilled because she was
killed in a traffic accident. She was 15,” said Gooden.
Shannen began her campaign after children in the school began suffering
illness eventually traced to a huge diesel fuel spill. The government
promised a new school but instead brought in portable classrooms which
after 12 years remain in the community.
The portables became infected with mould, rats and snakes;
close properly in winter, according to Gooden, making it dangerous for
the children if a fire were to break out.
Shannen led a national campaign to have something done and intended to
take her case to the United Nations. Gooden said she was nominated for
a Nobel Prize for her efforts.
The rally in support of what was called Shannen’s dream began as
a march from Wascana Park to the Legislature by a little over 300 children,
mostly from St. Bernadette School and about 60 from Sacred Heart Community
School. Both schools have a large Aboriginal student population. The
march and rally were all part of St. Bernadette’s social justice
project, Project Heart, in which students have taken on projects around
the residential schools issue and how those schools affected Aboriginal
Besides Gooden, several speakers addressed the rally, including director
of education for the Regina Roman Catholic School District Rob Currie,
religious co-ordinator for the school district Miles Meyers, and NDP
MLA and opposition education critic Trent Wotherspoon. All congratulated
the children for being involved in Project Heart and for their work on
behalf of Aboriginal children.
The children wrote 300 letters to Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking that all children have access to proper education facilities and several children came forward to read what they had written. The letters will be sent to the prime minister.