C/P to follow....
OTTAWA - Two of Canada's largest unions paid to bus hundreds of school kids to Parliament Hill on Tuesday to rally against what they call government inaction on First Nations education.
Officials with the Public Service Alliance of Canada and Canadian Union of Public Employees denied the elementary school students were enlisted as props in the unions' ongoing public battle against Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government.
"We sponsored the bus to bring them...CUPE and PSAC," said Don Moran, a senior officer with CUPE. "We kind of had a joint venture to bring them down so that all the voices could be heard here...I think (the kids) are speaking from their hearts. I don't think there's any brainwashing."
The children, from Ottawa's Lady Evelyn alternative school, Gatineau's Pierre Elliot Trudeau School and Kitigan Zibi First Nation, brought signs and sang songs about First Nations education. The rally was called "Have a Heart" to incorporate a Valentine's Day theme.
"Mr. Harper, have a heart," the group sang. "Reconsider what you're doing."
The children ranged from junior kindergartners to Grade 6 students. Some of their attacks were directly aimed at the prime minister and his "lies."
Lisa Howell, a grade 5-6 special education teacher at Pierre Elliot Trudeau School, says it wasn't a staged political event.
"I don't feel like we're advancing an agenda," Howell said. "I feel like these kids are standing up for the rights of children in their own country. Children in their country don't have schools. Children in our country don't live in proper homes."
Public schools are typically responsible for raising their own money for field trip transportation but CUPE and PSAC offered to pay for buses and the schools accepted.
NDP MP Charlie Angus also attended Tuesday's rally and said the kids fully understand the First Nation education issue.
"Education is a universal human right...Canada has treated (First Nation) children with contempt. Children have been relegated to a fourth world, so if children want to call it the way it is, that's the way it is," Angus said.
The Prime Minister's Office wouldn't respond to the accusations directly but Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan addressed First Nation education in the House of Commons.
"The government will keep building on our progress to improve First Nations education," Duncan said. "We are engaged with First Nations."
Unions deny students used as props at First Nations rally | Canada | News | Edmonton Sun (external - login to view)