Judy Klassen and I call for a national initiative to ensure Every Child in Canada has Access to Learning from Home
Judy Klassen, former MLA for Keewatinook and I have written to Members of Parliament and Senators to urge them to support a national program to be initiated by the government of Canada to ensure Every Child needs Access to Learning from Home:
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for every child to have access to learning online. Sadly there are still substantial numbers of children in Canada who do not. There is a unique opportunity today to ensure no child is disadvantaged and to ensure that every child in Canada can learn online to supplement their classroom learning, or if needed as with COVID-19, to replace classroom learning temporarily. Simply put, this means every child in Canada must have internet access and a computer to be able to go to school from home, to be able to connect with their teacher, and to be able to learn.
Inequalities in our society fester when there is not equity of access to basic needs like education. Today, such inequalities are apparent like never before, with unequal access to the basic tools – computers and internet access – that children need to learn online. This is particularly needed for children with learning or other disabilities. We can act today to address these inequities. We must.
How is this to be done? It needs leadership from the federal government. What should the federal government do? Since most children in Canada do have computer and internet access from home, it is a matter of filling in the gaps where access is not present. One option to fill the gaps is to work in partnership with organizations like Inspire Community Outreach in Winnipeg. With strong roots in and connections to families in Winnipeg where children do not have computers or internet access from home, Angela Taylor, the founder and CEO of Inspire, came to the forefront and partnered with Computers for Schools, the Winnipeg Rotary Club and the local school division. Inspire has already placed about 400 computers in homes so children can go to school online and learn during the COVID-19 pandemic. Inspire still has another 600 children who need help and is working day by day and week by week to help these children as well.
The efforts of Inspire are a reminder to all of us of the important role of community based organizations in building partnerships and in achieving effective solutions. It is a reminder of the success of the Community Access Program (CSP), begun in 1994, which the federal government initiated to support local community efforts to get access to the internet across Canada. Today, we need a similar program to support community partnerships to fill the gaps in access to computers and online learning for young people across Canada. Funding for the community access plan was based on need, partnerships and a substantive plan to solve the problem of internet access throughout Canada. Now, we need a similar program to ensure that all children in Canada, whether they live in a big city a small village or a First Nation, Metis or an Inuit community, have access to online learning. There may be a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and we need to be ready. But even without a Second Wave, online access from home can help every child to learn and make sure no child is left behind.