Editorial: Well-being of children lost in bus funding debate

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When our elders would tell us they used to walk to school in -40, in three feet of snow, walking uphill both ways, many might take it for granted when a school bus is available.

This is no longer in the case in Cambridge Bay as the local school bus for elementary school-aged children isn’t roadworthy and the education authority and territorial government are at odds over who will pick up the bill for the repairs or replacement.

Alan Sim, chair of the Cambridge Bay District Education Authority (DEA), said “the bus still runs but it is not safe to use” and is asking the Government of Nunavut to pay for repairs.

“The problem there is that we could repair it and we would have very little left to pay a driver and supervisors,” Sim stated. “On top of that, after making the repairs, the engine may fail and all the money would have been wasted” (Nunavut News, Jan. 20 edition, ‘Cambridge Bay DEA wants GN to take over school bus service’).

It was the right call for the DEA to put the faulty bus out of service for the sake of the children’s safety, but the lack of action on the situation has resulted in young students walking up to a kilometre to school in frigid temperatures. It’s hardly news that Cambridge Bay is the second coldest community in the Kitikmeot so it should be a point of great concern that students are walking to school in January when the average high is -27 C.

A lot can happen in one kilometre. All parties involved would have a lot of explaining to do should a student wander off, sustain an injury, frostbite or worse.

From his comments it seems as though David Joanasie, minister of education, is considering the request from the DEA to fix the bus, but that request was filed in October, with little to no movement seen publicly as we get ready to enter February.

This kind of thinking, finger pointing and attempts to pass on responsibility is indicative of the inefficiencies of bureaucracy and the trend of constantly relying on the government for solutions.

This situation is similar to what happened with the Cambridge Bay arena, when mould was found in 2011 and even after federal funding was announced, the bureaucratic process slowed to a near grinding halt and meant the problem wasn’t completely resolved for eight years.

Why should Cambridge Bay residents have to suffer twice while the buck is passed from organization to organization?

While the bus situation is not grave, unnecessary risk is being created when perhaps the DEA could make sacrifices this fiscal year to solve the problem if the GN feels putting bus funding in the Education Act is not necessary.

Community problems also call for creative community solutions such as fundraising from Nunavummiut or appealing to businesses which operate in the Kitikmeot at large.

Whatever the solution may be, the most important aspect of this spat – the safety of the children – should not be lost from sight. It is of course the role of both the DEA and the GN to serve in the best interest of the people.