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Home News Feds pledge up to $2-billion for Canadian schools

Feds pledge up to $2-billion for Canadian schools

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Feds pledge up to $2-billion for Canadian schools
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau -- Herald file photo.

The federal government has pledged up to $2-billion towards provincial back-to-school plans across the country, plus and additional $112-million specifically for schools on First Nations.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was well aware that education was a provincial responsibility. However, he also believed there was a place for the federal government to help during a difficult time.

“I told the premiers (on Tuesday) that we absolutely respect (their jurisdiction),” Trudeau told reporters during an announcement in Toronto. “What we’re announcing today is designed to support provinces and territories in the best way possible. Our government is here to help.”

Trudeau made the decision after extensive consultation who caucus members, who told him back-to-school plans were one of the most common issues their constituents were talking about. He said the funding allocations are designed to be as flexible as possible, meaning schools can use them for anything from PPE to cleaning supplies to adaptive learning spaces.

Students in some provinces, like Quebec, are already back in school, while other provinces like Saskatchewan are two weeks away. When asked why the government didn’t step in sooner to give schools more time to adjust, Trudeau said they were waiting on the provinces to finalize their plans. With those plans in place, he’s confident the federal government can fill in any gaps.

“We also recognize that as the school year begins, there could be a second wave of the virus, and that means that those resources will help in doing things … that may not seem necessary now, but will become necessary in mid-September or in late October,” he explained. “We want to ensure that the provinces have more resources to protect young people, and I think this is something that all parents and all people understand.”

As with the main funding announcement, the $112-million funding package for First Nations schools will be flexible. Those dollars can be used for any costs related to public health measures, like installing Plexiglas separators or marking floors with physical distancing indicators.

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller said they’ve been in close contact with Indigenous leaders, and believe this contribution will be enough to meet those needs.

“We recognize that a safe and physically-distanced return to school may incur additional costs, and are committed to keeping communities safe,” Miller said in a media release. “As we face these challenges, uncertainty, and deal with risk management, we will be there for schools and students.”

The Canadian Teachers’ Federation, which represents more than 300,000 teachers across the country, welcomed the federal government’s efforts.

The organization had previously called for mandatory masks, face shields and physical distancing as part of the return to school. While those measures never materialized, they were pleased to see some more financial support.

“A safe and sustainable return to school buildings is possible if governments are prepared to plan for it and pay for it,” the statement reads. “We hope that this commitment from the Federal Government encourages provinces and territories to do the same.”

@kerr_jas • jason.kerr@paherald.sk.ca