Assembly of First Nations, feds team up to support Indigenous students, updates school building standards 

By Marc Lalonde

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The federal government and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) have partnered on new, updated standards for all new school buildings to be built in Indigenous communities in the interest of providing students with a safe place to learn and grow, Indigenous Services Canada officials announced last week.

The updates to School Space Accommodation Standards include larger school sizes and include space to support full-day kindergarten, language and culture rooms, knowledge keeper offices, counselling rooms, and outdoor learning spaces, ISC officials said, and individual communities will have the flexibility to design the buildings to reflect their nations’ priorities, accommodate students’ needs and reflect the unique culture and traditions of their communities.

“These new standards, designed by First Nations for First Nations place our people as global leaders in Indigenous-led school building standards,” said AFN Saskatchewan Regional Chief Bobby Cameron. “As a result of First Nations leadership and collaborative efforts with the federal government, First Nations now have the opportunity to lead the design of the spaces most compatible with our ways of learning. These new standards are an important step toward our continued advocacy to ensure appropriate and sustained investments to address long-standing concerns with access to safe schools and to build new schools on-reserve. Inherent and treaty right to education and asserting First Nations jurisdiction are our top priorities,” said Cameron, who is also the AFN Chiefs education committee chair.

ISC officials reported the government has committed $2.34 billion up to 2024-025 in First Nations school facilities, which includes

$860.5 million from last year’s budget. While work remains in progress, in total these investments will result in the construction of 64 new schools (40 currently complete) and renovations or upgrades to 94 existing schools (76 currently complete), benefiting 33,000 students.

Indigenous Services Minister Patty Hajdu said credit should go to Cameron and his education committee for the hard work in getting the project off the ground.

“I commend the work of AFN Regional Chief Cameron and the entire AFN education committee for their work in partnership with Indigenous Services Canada,” she said. “As new schools are built and existing schools are renovated, the updated will ensure that students in First Nations communities have access to the supports they need to learn and grow, while also providing First Nations with greater flexibility to design schools that best meet their needs.”

 Marc Lalonde  is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the  IORI:WASE. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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