August 21, 2017 (Cornwall, ON) – Further to the establishment of a temporary shelter for up to 300 Refugee Claimants at the NAV Canada Centre in Cornwall, Ontario by the Government of Canada, the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) has participated in discussions with the Ontario Ministry of Education regarding contingency planning and ongoing support for the area. All four school boards that serve the City of Cornwall and vicinity were contacted by Ministry of Education officials last Thursday, advising that the Federal Government and the Government of Ontario are collaborating on contingency planning, in the event that there is an increased need to lodge Refugee Claimants during the initial immigration screening process. No requests were made of the UCDSB during the call to board officials, since the communication was an information update only. “Our school district is prepared to engage requests from the province to assist with this situation”, stated UCDSB Board Chair Jeff McMillan. “We had direct experience in supporting our schools and school communities who were preparing to receive Syrian refugees during 2015-2016 and we will apply our understanding from that experience to assist any families who are new to Canada and who want to enrol their children at any of our local schools. It is the least that we can do, having heard of the trying experiences of these families to find a safe place to call home.” Director of Education for the UCDSB, Stephen Sliwa, commented that the contingency planning that is underway in the Eastern region of the school district is looking at a wide range of considerations. “We are assessing where we may need to shift and share resources at different schools’ sites should we receive a request for providing additional educational programs and services”, said Sliwa. “We are also confirming how we can best support any individuals / families who clear the refugee screening process, then admitted to Canada, and who decide to reside in Cornwall or the surrounding areas.” Sliwa indicated that factors such as the temporary support for community integration, language interpretation and translation services, and school based program deliver for children and youth (K to 12) are all areas where the school board has the ability to support newcomers in the UCDSB. In its discussions last week Ministry of Education officials, the Upper Canada District School Board wanted to assure the Ministry that the province can count on the cooperation of their School Board during this time of need. The Ministry of Education advised that they are participating in an inter-ministerial working group who is in contact with the Canadian government on this matter. All School Boards in our region are expecting periodic updates once there are further developments.
“We will remain in contact with provincial officials to plan accordingly and are wanting to do our share to support others in need” stated Sliwa. “At times like this, it is about doing the right thing as an organization of caring people, who seek to attend to best interest of all children and their families.”