CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
It’s great to be here today at Yorkwoods Public School with Minister Hussen, and Members of Parliament Kirsty Duncan and Judy Sgro.
We’re also joined by Carlene Jackson and Alexander Brown from the TDSB, as well as School Trustee Chris Mammoliti. And to Principal Verma and Vice-Principal MacDonald – thank you for welcoming us here this morning.
I know the end of August is always busy as you get ready to welcome kids back.
And while every year is different, this September will be unlike any you’ve had to deal with before.
Parents and staff are anxious about what the school year may hold.
As a dad, and as a former teacher, I get that.
We all want what’s best for our kids, including a good education.
School matters – I got to see that first hand when I was in front of the classroom. And that’s why the tools we give to young people now to keep them safe, to allow them to be successful in the years to come in a world that is changing, a world that right now is more changed and more transformed than we’ve seen in a long time, getting them back to school safely and making sure them and their parents are confident about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it, really, really matters.
Just a few minutes ago, I had the chance to sit down with Joanne Luong and Phong Bui.
They have four kids, and they were telling me that they’re worried about sending them back to school.
Like every parent, Joanne and Phong want to make sure their children are safe.
But as owners of their own business, it’s also hard to juggle work with the kids at home.
This is something that a lot of parents – especially mothers – are facing right now.
Our children must be safe in the classroom.
No parent should be losing sleep because they have to go back to work, but aren’t confident schools are properly prepared.
My colleagues, the Premiers, are responsible for ensuring that our children are safe in their classrooms and that the teachers are safe on the job.
But our government will be there to help them.
As I have said before, the provinces and territories must make decisions based on public health advice, not budget limitations.
We have put our words into action and are providing federal funding to help them.
Our government has already committed to investing an unprecedented $19 billion in the Safe Restart Agreement with the provinces and territories.
We’re doing this so we can give Canadians the support they need.
We’ve always promised to be there for Canadians, and that is exactly what we’re doing.
But, of course, there is still work to be done.
So today, we’re taking another step forward.
Yesterday, I spoke with Premiers about the upcoming school year.
They’re working hard to protect our kids.
But this year is challenging and like no other.
That’s why today, I can announce that the federal government is investing up to $2 billion in school safety for the coming year.
This money, which will flow through the new Safe Return to Class Fund, will help keep students and teachers safe as schools reopen.
Our children must always be our top priority – as parents and as governments.
Once people know their kids are safe, they can get back to work with less worries.
Education is, of course, a provincial jurisdiction, and I told the Premiers yesterday that we absolutely respect that.
What we’re announcing today is designed to support provinces and territories in the best way possible.
Our government is here to help.
We’ve made this funding flexible, so provinces, and ultimately schools, can use it for what they need most, from hand sanitizer to remote learning.
Over the next few weeks, we will work hand in hand with the provinces and territories to ensure that the funds flow as quickly as possible.
On top of this new funding, we’re also investing $112 million in schools in First Nations communities.
This money will help those communities safely open their schools with proper supports for students, parents, and educators.
I want to thank everyone who has helped bring this new Safe Return to Class Fund together.
Over the past week, I’ve heard clearly from MPs across the country, as well as directly from concerned parents, asking us to see just what the federal government can do to help keep our kids safe.
So, in his very first days as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Minister LeBlanc and I talked about this, and he reached out to folks across the country.
And again, I want to thank members of caucus – including and especially Kirsty and Judy, here with us today – who have been a driving force to get more help to parents and kids.
Also, yesterday when I sat down with Dr. Tam, back to school was one of a number of things that we talked about to prepare for the fall.
Together, we came up with creative solutions for the Government of Canada to help our families and ensure our children are safe.
School safety is top of mind for all of us right now.
No matter where they live, students must be safe in their classrooms.
Teachers and staff must be safe on the job.
And parents must be confident that they can get back to work.
At our First Ministers’ Meeting yesterday afternoon, the Premiers and I discussed the measures we’re taking to keep Canadians safe in the weeks and months to come.
That includes today’s federal support for schools, and progress on everything from personal protective equipment, to help for the most vulnerable.
I would like to thank the Premiers for working together on several important projects over the past few months.
Fighting COVID-19 is a Team Canada effort, and we’re all committed to continuing this work together into the fall.
Thanks to everyone for being here today.