The Government of Canada has announced an investment of $248 million for new school infrastructure in four First Nations in northern Manitoba. Bunibonibee Cree Nation, God’s Lake First Nation, Manto Sipi Cree Nation, and Wasagamack First Nation have signed a contract to build four new schools in their communities. Funding for major renovations to an existing school at Bunibonibee Cree Nation is also part of this announcement.
The announcement is among the largest infrastructure contracts ever awarded by First Nations in partnership with Indigenous Services Canada.
“For our children this has been a long dream,” said Chief Timothy Muskego, Bunibonibee Cree Nation. “Today we celebrate with them as their dream has now become true. For every young person there has to be a real way to enjoy their youth and having a nice school is a powerful way.”
Each project has been designed in collaboration with community members, including students who will be attending the schools. In addition to maximizing opportunities for local training and employment, the schools will provide enhanced learning opportunities for students and reduce the need to move off-reserve to complete secondary education.
New schools at God’s Lake First Nation, Manto Sipi First Nation, and Wasagamack First Nation will accommodate students from Kindergarten to Grade 12. In Bunibonibee Cree Nation, the existing Kindergarten to Grade 6 school will be renovated, and a new school for Grades 7 through 12 will also be constructed.
The current school at God’s Lake First Nation provides instruction from Kindergarten to Grade 9, and the school at Manto Sipi First Nation provides instruction from Kindergarten to Grade 11. The existing schools at Bunibonibee Cree Nation and Wasagamack First Nation presently offer instruction from Kindergarten to Grade 12.
A contract of $190 million for these projects was signed by the chiefs of each First Nation and Penn-Co Construction Canada Ltd. on November 5, 2018. In addition to that amount, Indigenous Services Canada will be providing $58 million to support other expenses related to this project. Penn-Co will be the general project manager and will work with each First Nation to complete construction in their communities. This consolidated approach to procurement will provide a reduced overall cost for the construction of each school.
Construction is expected to start in spring 2019. Once completed, over 2,600 students in five schools will have access to modern and expanded facilities.