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Too many interruptions in Lake St. Martin students education: Feds

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The federal government is taking education out of Lake St. Martin’s hands out of concern for their children, Ottawa said in a statement.

In an official response released by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, a spokeswoman said Ottawa acted fast as a final resort.

"Our priority is ensuring that the First Nations students are able to continue with their education. AANDC was informed of the cancellation notice on November 2, 2012. Given the exceptional circumstances, the Minister has directed the department to offer whatever assistance is required by the province and the First Nation in order to minimize any disruption to the student's schooling," Ottawa stated.

The schoolchildren from the flooded out First Nation have had a lot of stumbling blocks put in the way of their education since the 2011 evacuation. The Chief and Council have made repeated statements they feel like they’re fighting the federal government in their attempts to maintain control of the community’s education.

Ottawa told the community’s leaders in blunt language on Nov. 2, that there have been too many interruptions in the students education since the evacuation.

One aboriginal leader not directly connected to dispute said what's going onbetween the First Nation and Ottawa over who has control over schooling is insane.

Meanwhile, the Free Press reported the fire department outlined the violations that led to the shutdown Friday of the First Nation’s classrooms at 1970 Ness Ave., a former school.

They were related to an electrical fire alarm panel that was installed without a permit and boiler repairs to the heating system. The city’s corporate spokeswoman said today the information is not available for public release.

The letter from the fire department that outlined the fire code violations was obtained by the Free Press.

"I deeply understand the hardship your children have gone through. Our decision with this situation is based solely on the safety of your children. Our caution now could avoid a disaster down the road of which we could never explain if we didn’t address these issues," states the letter that the paper obtained.

In it, the director of fire prevention for the city of Winnipeg, Wayne Chikowski reassured an official from Lake St. Martin the repairs were serious but relatively minor and easily fixed. In fact, he said he anticipated sending an inspector back Nov. 14, after speaking with the building’s owner to inspect repairs.

"That was the date we came up with that we believe it would take to complet the repairs and correct the violations," Chikowski wrote. "I will be meeting with the Head Electrical Inspector shortly. Please be patient, we are not that far away," he concludes by reassurance.

Meanwhile other First Nations with school-aged evacuees in Winnipeg reported today they haven’t had any problems with getting their kids into school and staying there, and certainly nothing like the problems for the Lake St. Martin students.

"Of course, it was different," said Little Saskatchewan Chief Gerald Anderson.

"They had their own school building and we thought we’d just enroll them rather than take that route (to set up an off-reserve school)," Anderson said.

And after reading about Lake St. Martin’s problems, Anderson questioned why the federal government agreed to cover the lease for the rundown building, and why an inspection wasn’t carried out before the lease was approved.

Several dozen students from Little Saskatchewan who are in the Gimili area are doing well at the school there and there are no problems with the students enrolled in Winnipeg schools, the chief said.

"I’m hearing a good story in Gimli about the students who are enrolled there," he said.


Updated on Tuesday, November 6, 2012 at 3:23 PM CST: Updates with details from fire department letter and comments from Little Saskatchewan Chief Gerald Anderson.

4:09 PM: Corrects garbled paragraph.

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