Ignoring the learning challenges facing First Nations could unleash employment and career development calamities that shackle an entire generation, writes Ken Coates in the Ottawa Citizen.
By Ken Coates, January 18, 2022
The pandemic has battered our country, the cracks papered over by the expenditure of vast sums of public money. When this scourge finally comes under control, Canada will face a massive and expensive reckoning. The catastrophic hit to small businesses, the crisis in tourism and air travel, disrupted work patterns, related transitions in employment and consumer behaviour, the need to pay for hundreds of billions of dollars in pandemic spending; there are many major issues to be addressed.
First Nations have shouldered an excessive burden throughout the pandemic. As the illness overwhelmed crowded homes on reserves with minimal health services, First Nations shuttered large parts of their economies, although Indigenous economic development agencies responded creatively to new realities. This winter’s COVID wave continues to have a major impact on reserve life, with many local governments locking down communities.
In education, the challenges are huge. While Canada quickly shifted to online learning, reserves struggled with abysmal Internet connectivity; many households lack the computers or tablets required for online learning. Add the challenges of multiple students trying to study in over-crowded homes and it becomes apparent how the COVID-fuelled educational crisis is severely impacting many homes and communities.
This is no short-term challenge. Lost years of learning can be catastrophic, particularly for younger children under Grade 6 who are in their prime learning years…