NEWS -- Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller says Ottawa will be there to help First Nations schools protect against COVID-19 following calls for more dedicated funding.

The Nishnawbe Aski Nation has accused the federal government of ignoring its urgent requests for supplies and funding needed for a safe back-to-school plan for its nearly 9,000 students in northern Ontario communities.

Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox said the organization has asked for $33 million to pay for personal protective equipment and sanitization supplies, but was told its plans are too "far-reaching."

And he warned this could mean delaying the start of the school year in its 49 member First Nation communities -- many remote and without the reliable internet infrastructure needed for online learning.

Miller says he understands this is a major concern for all Indigenous educators and parents, including for those whose children attend schools away from reserves.

He says the government has the financial resources to help facilitate a safe return to school for First Nations children and teachers.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 25, 2020.