Current Problems

Education (6-12)

Teachers in Six Nations ask Canadians not to forget impact of federal strike on Indigenous students

April 30, 2023

1,100 kids in Six Nations have been out of school since April 19

Two teachers holding a picket sign.
Teachers were on strike outside of elementary schools last week in Ohsweken, Ont., part of Six Nations of the Grand River. (Submitted by Aidan Morgan)

CBC News: As the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) strike continues, students at the five federally run elementary schools in Six Nations of the Grand River face another week without class.  The five schools — Jamieson Elementary, J.C. Hill Elementary, Emily C. General Elementary, I.L. Thomas Odadrihonyani’ta’ Elementary and Oliver M. Smith Elementary — are run through Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), whose employees are among the 155,000 union members who have been on strike since April 19.

The strike has put more than 1,100 grade school students in Six Nations out of class. 

“If this were in a big city like Hamilton, and all the kids in Hamilton were not going to school, it would be a focal point,” Benjamin Doxtdator, a teacher in Six Nations and PSAC member, told CBC Hamilton. “As an Indigenous person and as a teacher of Indigenous students, it feels like another case where Indigenous issues in Canada are invisible.”

Strikers with a child in Six Nations
Laurie Kanerahtokon Green, left, is a teacher on Six Nations of the Grand River. Her daughter Emi Green, 6, whose school has been closed, and her mother Dennise Maracle joined her on the picket line in Ohsweken, Ont., last week. (Submitted by Laurie Kanerahtokon Green)

Outside of Six Nations, one other school, in Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, near Belleville, Ont., is being impacted by striking teachers, according to ISC.  The strike also affects a significant portion of the national capital’s largest employer, disrupts about 30 departments and affects a range of services, including processing of income tax returns and passports. 

PSAC employees are striking over wages, job security and remote working options. As of Sunday, the federal government had offered the workers a nine per cent raise over a three year period. The union had initially demanded a 13.5 per cent wage increase over three years but has said it has lowered its demand twice, though has not confirmed by how much.

On Sunday, PSAC said it has “made some progress on our wage demands and job security,” but that negotiations continued, according to a message posted on Twitter.

If the strike continues, teachers from Six Nations said they expected to be back on the picket line Monday morning. 

Teachers expected back on picket line Monday

Lenora Maracle, a Mohawk language teacher at Oliver M. Smith Elementary, told CBC Hamilton there were around 100 people picketing in the community on Friday. She said she hopes the strike will make the federal government “realize the importance of its workers and start on treating us better.”

Small children's shoes can be seen on a coat rack in the middle of a school hallway with green tiles. The walls are covered in student art.
The empty halls of Jamieson Elementary can be seen on Thursday, April 20, 2023. The school is one of five on Six Nations of the Grand River Territory that’s been shut down during the federal workers strike. (Aicha Smith-Belghaba/CBC)

Doxtdator said he is frustrated the strike has gone on for almost two weeks. “I fully support the union. I think the union is essential to workers having rights and to workers making making progress and having fair wages,” he said. However, he added, he thinks the union should also be talking about the impact the strike is having on Six Nations children. 

“The PSAC strike has impacted our Six Nations of the Grand River community and has the Six Nations of the Grand River elected council concerned for all of our members, students and families,” elected Chief Mark Hill said in a press release April 19.

Zarah Malik, a media relations officer with ISC, told CBC News, “officials will continue working with First Nation leadership and families to ensure students are provided with opportunities to continue their learning during the labour disruption.” 


Cara Nickerson, Cara Nickerson is a journalist with Ontario’s six local news markets: CBC Hamilton, CBC Windsor, CBC Sudbury, CBC Kitchener-Waterloo, CBC Thunder Bay and CBC London. She covers all topics, but has a special interest in reporting on social issues and community events.