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School boards say Indigenous curriculum will continue

Ministry of Education cancel writing sessions that would have updated Truth and Reconciliation curriculum across Ontario
02-21-2018-EdmundMetatawabinJH03
Edmund Metatawabin speaks to students at St. Mary's French Immersion School in April 2018 about his experience at St. Anne's Residential School in Fort Albany, Ont. James Hopkin/SooToday

Public school boards in Sault Ste. Marie say they’re forging ahead with Truth and Reconciliation-related studies following the cancellation of a writing project that would have updated Indigenous curriculum across the province.

Joe Maurice, superintendent of education for the Algoma District School Board (ADSB), told SooToday that he was “surprised and disappointed” by the news.

During an ADSB committee of the whole meeting this past April, Maurice outlined the school board’s plans to revise its curriculum in order to reflect Indigenous history, culture and worldview.

Social studies classes from grades 4-6, and history classes for grades 7,8 and 10 were slated to focus on incorporating more Indigenous perspective into the curriculum, specifically in the areas of treaties, the Indian Act and the residential school system.

Maurice called the revisions a direct response to ‘calls to action’ numbers 62 and 63 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The school board had also planned for 21 Indigenous courses in nine ADSB schools, and six Anishinaabe language courses in four of its schools across the Algoma District this fall.

“We’re all Canadians, so I think understanding our neighbours, understanding each other, I think is a huge benefit to everybody,” Maurice told SooToday in April. “It’s our history.”

Now, Maurice says that the board is still committed to implementing those same revisions to its curriculum, and currently there are no plans to cancel the work that’s being done.

Maurice says that he’ll be reaching out to the local advisory board this fall.

Meanwhile, the Huron-Superior District Catholic School Board (HSCDSB) says it’s still committed to educating staff and students on Indigenous history and culture.

The board touted its residential school-themed graphic novel project this past school year, which even garnered support and praise from Edmund Metatawabin, a survivor of St. Anne’s Residential School in Fort Albany.

Metatawabin also visited with staff, students and board trustees on a couple occasions during the 2017-2018 academic year.

“The Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board is aware of the recent cancellation of the Ministry of Education’s curriculum writing sessions, including those related to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action,” said HSCDSB director of education Rose Burton Spohn via email. “While we do not know the details around why these sessions were cancelled, we, as a board, remain committed to increasing our students’ and employees’ knowledge of Indigenous history, perspectives, and cultures.”

The Ministry of Education cancelled July’s curriculum revision sessions related to kindergarten Indigenous language classes and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission after the Tory government took office June 29.

- with files from The Canadian Press