Schools and education paramount as we move forward

By MPP Toby Barrett

As a government, we must ensure our youngest learners have a great place close to home to start their education journey.

Over the past few years, areas of Haldimand-Norfolk have greatly expanded, for example Caledonia where many families, especially from the 905 area code, are attracted to the ‘Grand’ community. Caledonia has lots to offer young families including a great downtown, access to a plethora of health and recreational opportunities, as well as outdoor adventures along the Grand. While a growing population can be healthy and is good for the local economy, it does place pressure on school capacity.

Schools within the urban boundary of Caledonia have been over or near capacity for the past several years. As of late, I am delivering to Caledonia businesses, a petition calling on the Ontario Ministry of Education to approve and assist in funding increased school capacity in the Caledonia area.

If you are interested in supporting this cause, sign the petition or send me an email to

When it comes to the ongoing battle to keep students and staff safe in Ontario schools, the Ontario Government announced last week the introduction of targeted rapid antigen screening. Tests will be available for students through participating public health units where risk of transmission is high.

Our goal is to keep our schools open and to keep everyone safe – expanding rapid antigen screening will help achieve both. The program will support access to voluntary, rapid asymptomatic screening for unvaccinated children. This will help identify and prevent transmission in schools as well as in licensed childcare settings.

Recently there were five Ontario schools closed due to outbreaks. At the same time, we learned 80 per cent of Ontario education workers have provided disclosures of full vaccination.

On September 29th, we observed the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation – a day that is now a federal statutory holiday. On that day, Minister Lecce made a promise to dedicate more money and time to Indigenous education in the province’s schools.

The government has a plan to strengthen First Nation, Métis and Inuit content and learning in the elementary curriculum. Grades 1-3 will see a new mandatory social studies curriculum, and will include an introduction to the residential school system as well as the Indigenous relationship to land.

A commitment of $23.96 million in Indigenous Education Funding was also announced, which will enable student success, higher graduation rates and pathways to post-secondary education, the skilled trades and good-paying jobs. Further, an investment of $850,000 was made to the Métis Nation of Ontario and over $400,000 for an alternate secondary school program, to strengthen learning of Métis history and contributions. 

These commitments ensure all students, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, are enriched by learning about the histories, cultures, perspectives and contributions of First Nations, Métis and Inuit individuals, communities and nations in Canada.

The Ontario government is committed to delivering on key Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and ensuring every Indigenous student across the province is supported with access to culturally appropriate learning opportunities.

As we continue to move though the global pandemic, good things are happening in Ontario schools. These good news items get lost to case counts and hospitalizations. It is time we focus on the positive items so we can safely move forward in the most successful way.

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk