Claude E. Garton Public School Raises Funds for Clean Water in First Nation Communities

Today, students at Claude E. Garton Public School took part in a school-wide fundraiser to walk for clean water in First Nation communities. Classes took turns completing a 2-kilometer walk inside the school to acknowledge the labour required by members of some Ontario First Nation communities to access clean water.

The initiative emerged from a social studies unit in the school鈥檚 Grade 3/4 French Immersion class studying the province鈥檚 access to clean water. The students learned that some Ontario First Nation communities, such as Attawapiskat First Nation, do not have reliable access to clean drinking water and require a 2-kilometer walk to access it. To financially support clean water efforts in Ontario First Nation communities, the students endeavored to replicate the walk with the option of carrying additional weight to simulate water buckets. All funds raised will be donated to the to support their clean water efforts in Ontario.

The Grade 3/4 class monitored the hallways and helped guide the other classes during their 2-kilometer walk. Lee Roberts, Grade 4 student, was motivated to make a difference and help lead this meaningful initiative. 鈥淲e鈥檙e doing this because some people on Indigenous reserves don鈥檛 have clean water and we think that we can take action and try to help them,鈥 said the French Immersion student.

The class prepared for the event by inviting a subject matter expert with extensive knowledge of barriers some Ontario First Nations face in accessing clean water. Mr. Wes Bova is the former chair of both the Ontario First Nations Technical Services Corporation and the Trilateral Steering Committee for the resolution of long-term drinking water advisories between Ontario First Nations, Indigenous Services Canada, and the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks. Bova spoke to the students about water filtration systems, boil water advisories, and some of the existing clean water challenges faced by remote First Nation communities. Bova discussed examples of serious issues pertaining to the access of clean water in the province, including Neskantaga First Nation which saw February 2022 mark its 27th year of a boil water advisory. Bova utilized his experience as previous manager of technical services at Matawa Tribal Council, whose membership includes four communities with long term drinking water advisories, to discuss Ontario鈥檚 current clean water situation with the students and answer their questions.

Brittney Smith, Grade 3/4 French Immersion teacher and lead on the initiative, explained that her class became passionate and upset about the lack of accessible clean water in areas of Ontario, and wanted to organize a spirit week and fundraiser to financially support a water filtration system for a community in need. Mrs. Smith explained that this is an important learning event for the whole school and the kind of experiential learning that students will never forget.

鈥淭he class learned about water walkers and wanted to do something like that. With everything going on in the world, it really gives me hope to know that our kids are so, so focused on humanity. That they believe everyone has a right to water and everyone should be treated equally,鈥 said Mrs. Smith.

To raise funds for the walk, the students collected pledges and the school partnered with local business Donut Run. 238 vegan, blue-iced donuts have been sold to the school community with 100% of the sale proceeds going to the fundraising total.