INDIGENOUS RIGHTS Winds of Change: Read the Report Card

In the words of Justice Murray Sinclair: “Education is what got us here and education is what will get us out”.  Education is the cornerstone for change.

Report Card: Provincial and Territorial Curriculum on Indigenous Peoples

Last updated in October 2015

Alberta | British Columbia | ManitobaNewfoundland & Labrador | New Brunswick | Northwest Territories | Nova Scotia | Nunavut | Ontario | PEI | Quebec | Saskatchewan | Yukon

dragonfly-icon-reconciliactionThis report card has been prepared by KAIROS as a baseline to assess progress in achieving reconciliation through education in schools across Canada. It is intended as a basis for dialogue. In June 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Indian Residential Schools called on governments in Canada, “in consultation and collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal peoples, and educators, to make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students.” (Call to Action 62.1) This is the basis upon which each province and territory has been assessed (see end of document for assessment criteria). We recognize that significant progress has been made in a number of territories and provinces and we want to commend the efforts of all those who have worked so hard to bring about these curriculum changes. It has created momentum across the country that we can all build on.

KAIROS would like to highlight that curriculum changes need to happen in partnership with Indigenous organizations and experts, including survivors. Since it is difficult to assess the quality of relationships, we have not included these criteria in the report card. However, it is absolutely crucial that collaboration be at the centre of the work.

KAIROS will update the report card periodically as more progress is made in achieving this goal. We gratefully acknowledge the research of the Legacy of Hope Foundation, which was invaluable in developing this first report card.


Assessment Criteria for Curriculum in Each Province or Territory

Topics Covered

  • Excellent: Includes all four elements (i.e. residential school legacy, Treaties, historical contributions and contemporary contributions) referenced in Call to Action 62.1 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action
  • Good: Includes some of the four elements
  • Needs Improvement: Includes at least one of the four elements
  • Significant Work Required: Includes none of the four elements

Mandatory

  • Excellent: Is mandatory in all grades
  • Good: Is mandatory in some grades
  • Needs Improvement: Is optional
  • Significant Work Required: Is not offered, even optionally

Grades Included

  • Excellent: Taught from Kindergarten to Grade 12
  • Good: Taught in two or more grades
  • Needs Improvement: Taught in only one grade
  • Significant Work Required: Not offered in any grade

Alberta

Currently, there is residential school content in mandatory Grade 4, 7 and 10 Social Studies courses and in optional Grade 10, 11 and 12 Aboriginal Studies courses. Alberta has made substantial commitments to mandatory courses on the history and legacy of residential schools, Treaties and the history of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples for all K-12 students in provincially-run schools.  With the appointment of an Acting Assistant Deputy Minister of Aboriginal Learning in 2014, the hope is for a coordinated and collaborative approach that will ensure continued work with Indigenous partners. There is no definite timeline for implementation and research is ongoing. As of June 2016, there is a Joint Commitment to Action signed by seven Indigenous and non-Indigenous organizations that will ensure all K-12 teachers receive additional training related to First Nations, Métis and Inuit history and culture within the next two to three years.

Alberta report card, winds of change, education for reconciliation

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British Columbia

High schools in BC currently offer a few optional courses about First Nations, including BC First Nations Studies (Grade 12 Social Studies) and First Peoples (Grades 10-12 English). A new curriculum addressing

“discrimination, inequality, oppression, impacts of colonialism” for students in Kindergarten to Grade 9 will be rolled out in late 2015. A new curriculum for Grades 10-12 will be available in 2016.

The BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) is using educational resources from the Legacy of Hope Foundation and Project of Heart to increase student awareness of the residential school legacy. The BCTF recently released an interactive Project of Heart e-book that is being picked up by schools across the province and beyond.

As well, the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC), the First Nations Schools Association, BCTF and the Ministry of Education are collaborating to produce FNESC resources for grades 5, 10, 11 and 12 that are inclusive of Indigenous knowledge and perspectives. Although these are not part of provincial curriculum, it is a promising partnership.

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Manitoba

Manitoba has an initiative called From Apology to Reconciliation that became part of the Grade 9 Social Studies curriculum and Grade 11 History curriculum in 2011. Prior to this, students learned about residential schools, but teachers had less training and fewer materials and resources. There will now be five lessons per year in each grade focused on residential schools and each school will receive the From Apology to Reconciliation DVD and Learning Resource. Schools also make use of the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba’s Senior Years Treaty Education Kit.

A draft First Nations, Inuit and Métis Education Policy Framework in response to the recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report was just released. It is designed to generate dialogue and bring about curriculum that is inclusive of Manitoba First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples’ histories, languages, cultures and identities.

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New Brunswick

The New Brunswick curriculum does not cover residential schools or other Indigenous issues, although the need to address this gap has been identified. There is a Grade 12 Native Studies course but it is not mandatory. A mandatory online professional development course on cultural awareness is under development and the Ministry of Education has supported the creation of four illustrated children’s books that tell stories of First Nations in New Brunswick.

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Newfoundland & Labrador

The education system in Newfoundland and Labrador falls under three jurisdictions – the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, the Government of Nunatsiavut’s Ministry of Education and Economic Development, and the Mamu Tshishkutamashutau Innu Education School Board. Each jurisdiction has a different approach to curriculum. Under the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, all grade 7 and 9 students learn about residential schools in Social Studies. In high school, students have the opportunity to further this learning in Newfoundland and Labrador and Canadian Studies courses.

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Northwest Territories

NWT uses The Residential School System in Canada: Understanding the Past – Seeking Reconciliation – Building Hope for Tomorrow package as a mandatory part of the Grade 10 curriculum. All teachers in the territory have received professional development on the residential school legacy, even those who do not teach the course.

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Nova Scotia

All students in provincially-run schools in Nova Scotia learn about the residential school system in their Grade 7 Social Studies class. Some also learn about it in the optional Grade 10 Mi’kmaq Studies and Grade 11 Canadian History/Histoire du Canada courses. Thanks to the Mi’kmaq Liaison Office in the Department of Education, every high school in the province has a Legacy of Hope Edu-kit which includes a curriculum resource on the residential school issue. As well, a commitment has been made by the Ministry of Education to integrate education about the treaties across the curriculum.

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Nunavut

Nunavut uses a curriculum package adapted from the Legacy of Hope Edu-kit called The Residential School System in Canada: Understanding the Past – Seeking Reconciliation – Building Hope for Tomorrow. This is a mandatory part of the Grade 10 curriculum.

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Ontario

Currently, there is very little mandatory  curriculum in Ontario that covers Indigenous issues although there are some backgrounders on topics such as residential schools for Grades 1 to 6 Social Studies courses. There is also a bit of content included in Grades 7 and 8 History and Geography courses, and some high school courses.

There has been a significant step forward. On February 17, 2016, in line with Call to Action 62.i the provincial government said it is developing a plan “to ensure that the impact of residential schools, the history of colonization and the importance of treaties is incorporated into mandatory learning expectations in Ontario’s public education system curriculum.”

The Ministry of Education works closely with the Ontario History and Social Sciences Teachers’ Association and the First Nations, Métis & Inuit Association of Ontario. Since 2003, representatives of Indigenous communities and organizations have participated in the curriculum review process and as a result, curriculum expectations relating to topics such as residential schools have been added at both the elementary and secondary level.

Report Card for Ontario

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Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island plans to update its curriculum to include more Indigenous content. The one existing secondary school course, Aboriginal Peoples of Atlantic Canada, is offered at only one school in the province. Teacher candidates have the option of specializing in Indigenous Education to gain knowledge and skills to respectfully integrate Indigenous themes across the K-12 curriculum.

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Quebec

The curriculum in Quebec includes very little content on Indigenous peoples. The Quebec Native Women’s Association circulated a petition in connection with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s national event in Montreal in 2013 asking for the high school History curriculum to include the history of First Nation, Métis, and Inuit peoples, including residential schools, and for the curriculum reform to take place in collaboration with Indigenous organizations and experts.

A notable exception is within the network of  “Community Learning Centre” (CLC) schools supported by the educational non-profit organization LEARN, although this is primarily in the English language school system. In CLC Schools there is active and rapidly increasing use of resources such as: Project of Heart, Legacy of Hope Foundation 100 Years of Loss Kit, the KAIROS Blanket Exercise and participation in First Nation Child & Family Caring Society campaigns.

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Saskatchewan

All students in provincially-run schools in Saskatchewan learn about residential schools in their Grade 4, 7, 8 and 10 Social Studies courses. They also learn about Treaties from Kindergarten to Grade 12 through the provincially mandated Treaty Education curriculum. This mandate is supported by the Office of the Treaty Commissioner.

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Yukon

Yukon ensures that all grade 10 students learn about the residential school legacy. The Department of Education’s First Nations Program and Partnerships Unit worked in collaboration with Yukon First Nations, Elders, former residential school students, Social Studies teachers and historians to produce a mandatory social studies unit called Our Stories of Residential Schools in Yukon and Canada: Seeking Understanding – Finding Our Way Together. It focuses on the residential school experiences of Yukon First Nations students.

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