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Nanaimo school district before courts over facilities plan

A two-day hearing involving a dispute between the Snuneymuxw First Nation and Nanaimo school district concluded yesterday in Victoria.

The judicial review centres around the school district’s decision to close Cedar Community Secondary, Woodbank Elementary and North Cedar Intermediate schools as part of its 10-year facilities plan, with Snuneymuxw asserting that the school board breached its legal obligation to include the First Nation in the decision-making process. Doug White III, lawyer and former Snuneymuxw chief, said it was unacceptable that aboriginal people not have a say in the education of their children.

“If the judge agrees with us, which he should, then what he will do is set aside those decisions that they made and direct that we have a proper conversation between the school board and Snuneymuxw about the critical issues that we’re all faced with, about the education of our kids,” said White.

The legal action was filed last year while White was chief but it is still considered a priority and has the support of the current administration, according to Coun. Bill Yoachim.

“It is still very important and it is still being supported by the present day chief and council,” said Yoachim. “Our children are a priority for chief and council and the treatment of the school district is unacceptable, so this is a cause we unanimously decided to carry forward as well.”

White said the school district argued Snuneymuxw students represent a small number in the school system, and claims the band was acting in bad faith.

In an email, spokeswoman Donna Reimer said the school district did invite Snuneymuxw to participate in the consultation process and it has invited the First Nation to work with the district as it transitions students and families.

“The district believes its consultation for the 10-Year Enhanced Facilities Plan was thorough and appropriate,” Reimer said.

No timeline was given on when the judge’s written decision would be released.

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