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B.C. homework assignment asks for 'positive experiences with residential schools'


ABBOTSFORD, B.C. — A school superintendent in British Columbia is apologizing to an Indigenous mother who pointed out a homework assignment that asked students to find "positive experiences with residential schools."

Krista MacInnis said she began crying when her daughter asked for help on the Grade 6 assignment from William A. Fraser Middle School in Abbotsford.

"I felt extremely angry, I felt baffled. I think I went through all aspects of emotion in 10 seconds flat," she said in an interview.

MacInnis said she asked her daughter to erase the work she had done on the assignment, which included the web address for a blog post entitled "Balancing the Biased 'Genocide' Story About Residential Schools."

Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission detailed how the residential school system played a central role in perpetrating cultural genocide against Indigenous people.

MacInnis said she's heard from the superintendent of the Abbotsford school district, Kevin Godden, who told her as a person of colour he was outraged by the assignment her daughter received.

In a statement, Godden said the homework is a "disservice to the district's commitment to truth and reconciliation."

"We are deeply sorry for any harm caused to the parents, students, families and the Indigenous community at large."

MacInnis said she has also heard from the school's principal, who told her he has spoken with the teacher and they would both like to apologize to the mother and her daughter.

"I'm disgusted that this could even be something that would fall in the hands of an 11-year-old child," MacInnis said in an interview.

"I haven't even gotten a chance to go into detail with her about how horrendous residential schools were."

MacInnis posted her reaction to the assignment on the social media platform TikTok in a video that now has tens of thousands of views.

Godden said the school district's Indigenous education department works to help teachers "infuse Indigenous knowledge and perspectives into the classroom."

The district is committed to ensuring all materials provided to students are "culturally responsive" and recognize its responsibility to alert educators to racism and implicit bias, he said.

The district is continuing to investigate the matter, Godden said.

Education Minister Rob Fleming said the ministry contacted the school district when the assignment was brought to its attention.

"True reconciliation requires all of us to acknowledge the history and pain of this dark and shameful period in our history, which is now a critically important part of today’s B.C. school curriculum," he said in a statement.

"Any teachings that detract or dismiss the realities of residential schools have no place in our education system."

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

The Canadian Press

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