From Timmins' THE DAILY PRESS
By KATE MCLAREN
Shannen's Dream is fast becoming a reality -- both on Parliament Hill and on the big screen.
A film paying tribute to Shannen Koostachin, a young Aboriginal leader killed in May 2010, is ensuring her dream of education equality lives on.
Koostachin made national headlines when, as part of a group of young Attawapiskat residents, she travelled to Ottawa to lobby the federal government for a new school.
Although she died in a car accident last spring, MP Charlie Angus (NDP, Timmins-James Bay) said the young woman is still making waves.
"The Shannen's Dream campaign is not just about building a school in Attawapiskat anymore. It's about the fact that students in First Nations communities shouldn't have to beg and fight for a school."
The film, produced by Heartspeak TV, is being used to raise awareness, as well as a classroom resource for students across Canada.
Out of the tragedy of Koostachin's death came a cross-Canada interest in her story, explained Angus.
"The response has been over whelming. Schools are now starting to see the videos, people are crying, standing up, saying 'What do we do?'
"People are interested in the campaign all across Canada. They see all of the kids that are suffering, and they say 'this isn't right.' "
He added the campaign has been running smoothly, with weekly phone calls among representatives from organizations like the Canadian Labour Movement, school boards, and teacher's federations.
"Ever yone has come together and taken the story and are using it now to end discrimination. We're moving toward a national day of action, encouraging school children across the country to get involved."
The initiative includes a letter writing campaign from students across Canada.
"The government announced a new task force to look at these issues, so that's encouraging," said Angus. "We have to establish the same norms that exist in the provincial system."
Although a new school was promised for students in Attawapiskat, students are still learning in cold, run down portables.
"The problem is that Indian and Northern Affairs Canada moves slowly. Children only have one childhood, and it would be heartbreaking to see these kids in Attawapiskat wait another two or three years for a proper school."
He believes Canadians will respond strongly to the 17-minute film.
"It's such a tragic story, but it's beautiful and oddly hopeful and heroic. She was just a kid, yet she just couldn't stand that things were unjust. Shannen made a huge difference."
Appearing in the film's soundtrack is Angus himself, along with Andrew Cash performing a song written in memory of Koostachin titled Diamonds in the Snow.