Natural Resources Minister and Edmonton Mill Woods MP Amarjeet Sohi greets students at Ben Calf Robe-St. Clare School on Friday, May 24, 2019. Sohi announced $6 million in federal funding toward the replacement of the school building.
Allan Au / Edmonton Catholic Schools
In an uncommon arrangement, the federal government will contribute $6 million toward the replacement of an Edmonton Catholic school that focuses on Cree language and culture.Federal Natural Resources Minister Amarjeet Sohi announced the funding for Ben Calf Robe-St. Clare Catholic School on Friday.“The replacement of Ben Calf Robe School is a vital project that reflects our commitment to advancing reconciliation and renewing the relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership,” said the Edmonton Mill Woods MP in a news release.Sohi said the new school will ensure more Indigenous students in Edmonton will learn in a modern, inclusive and healthy environment.Typically, the provincial government provides all or most construction funding for school board infrastructure projects.Since 1989, the elementary-junior high school has served primarily Indigenous students in the Montrose-area building.From modernization to replacementThe building, which was built in phases between the 1940s and 1970s, has become too small for the in-demand Nehiyaw Pimatisiwin Cree Language and Culture Program. At last count, there were 434 students enrolled and the building was at 97 per cent capacity. In 2017, the then-NDP government approved an $18-million modernization and expansion for the building.Further investigation revealed replacing the building on the current site would be longer and more complex than the Edmonton Catholic school district leaders hoped. The school board asked the provincial government for another $6 million to build a replacement school.The former government granted that wish in September 2018.The federal government will now pay that extra $6 million from its Investing in Canada infrastructure plan as part of a $141-million agreement with the province.The school board will foot the bill for a $2-million cultural and ceremonial space in the building that will also be used by other people in the community.Projects that increase the quality of community, cultural and recreation facilities for Canadians, especially Indigenous people and vulnerable populations, are considered for funding from the plan.“The school will help to advance the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action No. 7, which calls upon the federal government to develop, with Aboriginal groups, a joint strategy to eliminate educational and employment gaps between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians,” Infrastructure Canada spokeswoman Jen Powroz said in a Friday email.The replacement school, which is in the design phase, will have room for up to 700 students, be more accessible, have more natural light and flexible space, better ventilation and a modern kitchen and eating space, among other features.Although the new building was initially slated to be complete by September 2020, the school district isn’t sure if the project will meet that email@example.com