Revised report card: Provincial and territorial curriculum on Indigenous Peoples
Updated October 9, 2018
This report card assesses the progress made by provincial and territorial governments in achieving reconciliation through education in schools across Canada between the Fall of 2017 and Spring of 2018.
In June 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) 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.i) This is the basis upon which each province and territory has been assessed. KAIROS acknowledges that significant progress has been made in the majority of territories and provinces and wants 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 upon which all of us can build.
Since the release of the TRC’s 94 Calls to Action, KAIROS Canada has graded Canadian provinces and territories on their public commitment to and implementation of Call to Action 62.i. This document is called Winds of Change: Education for Reconciliation A Report Card of Provincial & Territorial School Curriculum concerning Indigenous Peoples in Canada. In 2018, KAIROS updated the report card to reflect the progress of each province and territory.
KAIROS recognizes and thanks the volunteers who have advocated for the full implementation of Call 62.i and who continue to do so, by collecting petition signatures, contacting their elected officials and meeting with education ministries. To date, petitions have been presented in the legislatures in Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Alberta, with more to come.
KAIROS will update the report card as progress is made towards achieving this goal.
About the Grading System
The KAIROS grading system rates both the province’s or territory’s Public Commitment to, Call to Action 62.i, as reflected in public statements and reporting, and its Implementation of the Call. The report card assesses how the curriculum is advancing to realize the five sub-categories of this Call to Action: Consultation with Aboriginal Peoples, Mandatory Education from K-12, Treaties, Residential Schools, and the Historical and Contemporary Contributions of Aboriginal Peoples. The ratings: Excellent, Good, Needs Improvement and Significant Work Required are described as:
Excellent: There is significant evidence that the provincial or territorial curriculum is advancing consistently towards realizing the Call to Action. Next steps generally involve strengthening and expanding the educational framework.
Good: There is evidence that the provincial or territorial curriculum is advancing towards realizing the Call to Action, yet some aspects are unclear or inconsistent. Next steps generally involve addressing key elements of the educational framework.
Needs Improvement: Evidence is missing or unclear as to whether or not the curriculum is advancing towards realizing the Call to Action. Next steps generally involve developing and/or implementing a consistent action plan across the province or territory.
Significant Work Required: Evidence points to a current lack of advancement towards realizing the Call to Action. Next steps generally involve undertaking the consultation necessary to develop a coherent plan to realize the Call to Action.
Overall provincial and territorial grades are accompanied by a breakdown of the advances made in each sub-category of the Call to Action, a brief analysis of their advancement towards realizing the Call to Action, as well as suggestions for appropriate Next Steps.
Methodology – KAIROS acknowledges the following:
- The researchers drew heavily on the curriculum outlines on government websites. Indigenous communities were also contacted to gain their perspective on the inclusion of Indigenous content in the education system.
- The researchers critically reviewed Anglophone curriculum only. A review of Francophone curriculum is planned.
- Additional Indigenous curriculum that is not mentioned in Call to Action 62.i is highlighted. Examples include Indigenous language courses, teacher resources, and education agreements.
- Curriculum continues to develop and evolve in every province and territory and KAIROS will update the Report Card as new information becomes available.
Overview of Findings
- Some regional curricula focus more on certain Indigenous groups to the exclusion of others. In several provinces, Métis and Inuit are given comparatively little mention. In the territories, the focus on Inuit culture far outweighs mention of First Nations or Métis.
- Provinces and territories received the highest marks in the categories of: Residential Schools, Treaties, and Consultation between teachers and Indigenous Peoples. Almost all regions included Residential Schools in their curriculum.
- A common area where improvement is needed is in regard to the inclusion of the Historical and Contemporary Contributions of Indigenous Peoples.
- While many regional resources have been created in collaboration with Indigenous Peoples, issues with dated curriculum remain.
- It was difficult to find Indigenous content in Kindergarten, where the curriculum is focused on basic skills.
- While some regions come close, few regions attain the mandatory from K-12 element of the call, although Indigenous content is offered in some or most grades.
- In all provinces and territories, the successful implementation of Indigenous content in the curriculum will benefit from the increased participation of Indigenous teachers and administrators in the education system, cultural competence training for all non-Indigenous teachers and staff, and guides to teaching Indigenous curriculum.
Alberta has made numerous declarations of support for Call to Action 62.i, elements of which are present in most grades. The province plans to revamp its curriculum for grades K to 4 in 2018 to include Indigenous history and culture in all subjects.
Alberta has implemented specific Aboriginal Studies courses for students as well as training modules for educators on the delivery of Indigenous content. These have been developed in consultation with Indigenous Peoples. There is a funding commitment to equip teachers to deliver this content more effectively. Teachers have expressed reluctance in presenting the material, and there is need for support to teach Indigenous content in appropriate and respectful ways.
- Develop consistent training, standards and support for delivery of Indigenous content
- Ensure that the curriculum specifically addresses the contributions of Indigenous Peoples
- Ensure that the teaching of Indigenous curriculum is done in a way that respects Indigenous pedagogies.
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British Columbia’s Minister of Education has publicly recognized the importance of the TRC Calls to Action and the province has undertaken to implement the Tripartite Education Agreement along with the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) and the federal government.
The Indian Residential School and Reconciliation Teachers Resource Guide was created in consultation with FNESC and is used by teachers in multiple grades. First Peoples Social Studies (grade 11)
and Contemporary Indigenous Studies (grade 12) are specifically dedicated to the historical or contemporary texts created by or with First Peoples, the Residential School system and its legacy, and the Treaty process.
- Ensure that the historical contributions of Indigenous Peoples and Treaties are addressed in the K-8 curriculum
- Include mandatory Indigenous content for grades 9-12 beyond the optional courses
- Address concerns regarding implementation
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Manitoba has taken a significant step forward in committing to and implementing Call to Action 62.i. The province has legislated support for Indigenous learners and the inclusion of mandatory Indigenous content in schools. Social Studies, now mandatory from grades 1 to 11, covers Treaties, Residential Schools, and the Contributions of Aboriginal Peoples. Curriculum has been developed in consultation with Aboriginal Peoples via the First Nations, Métis and Inuit Education Policy Framework.
The province has instituted multiple training programs and teaching guides for educators to enhance accurate delivery of Indigenous content. Some of these are mandatory, while others are optional. Enhanced learning resources for students include the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia Game Project, which allows students to participate in a historical simulation of the Red River Settlement and its legacy in Canadian society.
- Implement the revised curriculum
- Continue to sustain and improve support for delivery of Indigenous content by educators
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New Brunswick has made improvements on its commitment to Call to Action 62.i as illustrated by a ten-year education plan with sweeping recommendations, including major revisions to the inclusion of mandatory Indigenous content, in consultation with Indigenous People. This plan is still in its infancy, and there are currently major gaps in the comprehensive teaching of Treaties, Residential Schools, and the Contributions of Aboriginal Peoples from K-12, with very little mandatory content and only passing mention of some of these subjects. Few teacher resources exist for the effective delivery of Indigenous content.
Despite the current lack of Indigenous content in the curriculum, the future looks promising. More training for teachers is available, and the government is working more closely with Indigenous communities. Consultation with the Three Nations Education Group has resulted in a memorandum to develop curriculum on the Peace and Friendship Treaties, the legacy of Residential Schools, the history and culture of First Nations Peoples, Crown and First Nations relationships, the legal and constitutional position of First Nations in New Brunswick, Aboriginal rights and the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
- Develop and implement comprehensive mandatory content from K-12 on Residential Schools, Treaties, and the Contributions of Aboriginal Peoples, as per the ten-year education plan
- In collaboration with Indigenous peoples, develop and implement mandatory teacher guides & training to support the appropriate delivery of Indigenous content by educators across the province
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Newfoundland & Labrador
In 2017, Newfoundland and Labrador released the Premier’s Task Force on Improving Educational Outcomes Report. This report includes the recognition that it is essential for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, in collaboration with the Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee, to develop a framework document on Indigenous Education to be completed by June 2019. The document cites Call to Action 62.i. Also, Indigenous groups have collaborated with the Department to develop and produce relevant teaching and learning resources for classrooms.
Newfoundland and Labrador has made improvements in the implementation of Call to Action 62.i, but more needs to be done. The province’s Social Studies curriculum includes Indigenous content from grades 1 to 9, yet the content is sparse and offers little to no coverage of current Indigenous issues and no comprehensive study of Residential Schools. Some grades address Treaties and Historical Contributions of Aboriginal peoples.
- Implement the recommendations of the Premier’s Task Force report
- Expand mandatory content from K-12 to comprehensively address Residential Schools
- Increase references to the Contemporary Contributions of Aboriginal Peoples
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Northwest Territories is making important strides towards realizing Call to Action 62.i. It is actively working to update the curriculum from grades K to 12 to include more on the history and legacy of Residential Schools.
Social Studies in grades 1 to 9 focus on the historical and contemporary contributions of Indigenous Peoples. The Dene Kede and the Inuuqatigiit, curriculum documents on local Indigenous identity, were written in consultation with Elders and other knowledge keepers. Teachers are asked to utilize these resources to integrate Indigenous content into subjects in all grades. Other innovative programs include land-based learning initiatives such as the On the Land Collaborative as well as intergenerational learning through the Elders in Schools Program.
There is little evidence of the study of Treaties in most grades, and while teachers are expected to enhance Indigenous content across all subjects, consistent training and standards for its delivery would increase the likelihood of this being done effectively or at all. The recent reduction in classroom hours raises the question of what content will be cut.
- Increase reference to and study of Treaties and Residential Schools across all grades
- Implement mandatory training and standards for the delivery of Indigenous content
- Ensure the sustained increase in the provision of Indigenous content
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Nova Scotia’s Tripartite Education Agreement recognizes the legislative authority of First Nations on curriculum. Provincial curriculum is undergoing significant changes in consultation with Mi’kmaw Elders, Mi’kmaw knowledge holders, and both Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey and public school teachers. The Treaty Education Framework for Curriculum Development is to include far more Indigenous content in various aspects of the educational system, from daily land acknowledgements to Treaty education, Residential Schools, reconciliation, and the importance of Mi’kmaw culture, as well as that of Acadians, African Nova Scotians, and Gaels.
Teachers across the province utilize the Edu-Kits provided by Legacy of Hope to guide their delivery of Indigenous content in the classroom, and a number of other resources exist to address subjects such as the history and legacy of Residential Schools. While the new curriculum is intended to make Indigenous content a mandatory component from K-12, its implementation remains to be evaluated and there are significant gaps in the old material.
- Continue to develop curriculum to address all subsections of Call to Action 62.i, in particular resources on Residential Schools and the historical and contemporary contributions of Indigenous Peoples.
- Ensure the consistent implementation of new and revised curriculum
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Nunavut is a member of The Western and Northern Canadian Protocol (WNCP).
Its Social Studies curriculum has been adapted from Alberta’s curriculum for grades 1-12. In September 2016, the Ministers of Alberta, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories agreed to reconstruct the Indigenous curriculum from kindergarten to grade 12. Testimonies have been shared to train teachers to teach the most problematic of Canada’s history, including Residential Schools.
The Foundation Documents for Inuit Schools puts emphasis on preserving and encouraging the teachings of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, knowledge of how to act in accordance with Inuit culture. The Government of Nunavut is committed to developing Inuit-centred curriculum, yet this is still in the process of creation, and the current teaching of Indigenous content appears to be discretionary across many grade levels. Some students, teachers and principals have acknowledged the importance of teaching from culturally relevant standpoints.
- Increase opportunities for intergenerational learning with Elders and knowledge-keepers
- Develop and implement mandatory Indigenous content from K-12
- Support educators with consistent training and standards to deliver Indigenous content
- Include more information about Treaties and Residential Schools.
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Ontario has made significant improvements in relation to Call to Action 62.i since the last report card. In November 2017, Ontario’s Ministry of Education, in collaboration with Residential School survivors, First Nations, Métis and Inuit partners, revised the Social Studies and History curriculum from grades 1
to 10. The new mandatory curriculum includes Treaties, Residential School and Indigenous achievements, and is to be fully implemented by September 2018.*
Ontario offers Native Studies in grades 11 and 12, which includes conflicts between Indigenous peoples and the Canadian Government, the Oka Crisis, Alkali Lake, the Jay Treaty of 1794, the Two Row Wampum Belt teaching, Indigenous achievements, and Residential Schools.
The province makes available to teachers culturally appropriate resources including Aboriginal Perspectives – A Guide to the Teacher Tool Kit and First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Connections Scope and Sequence of Expectations, which cover K to 12.
*As of the summer of 2018, Ontario’s new government made a public commitment to continue with the updated curriculum. However, efforts to tweak the lesson plan will be scaled back.
- Implement the revised curriculum
- Create culturally relevant guides for teachers to teach culturally and respectfully throughout history and contemporary issues
- Sustain support for the teaching of Indigenous content throughout the education system
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Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island is making progress regarding Call to Action 62.i. The province has made a public commitment to include mandatory Indigenous curriculum from K to 12. The design of this curriculum is being undertaken in collaboration with the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. and covers Treaties in grade 7, Residential Schools in grade 9, and Contributions of Aboriginal Peoples in grades 5 and 8. The Confederacy also provides teaching resources and expertise on Indigenous content, as well as Indigenous guest speakers in classrooms.
Most schools do not have a mandatory Indigenous Studies class but students in grades K through 10 are taught about Indigenous history through English, French, Geography, History, and Social Studies classes. There is an expressed commitment to decolonization and recognition of Indigenous-Settler relations. P.E.I. is taking a distinct approach to the study of Residential Schools through a daily 45-minute class over six to eight weeks. A thorough evaluation of the results of this intensive model of learning could provide useful insights for future curriculum development.
- Implement new and revised curriculum on Residential Schools, Treaties and historical and contemporary contributions of Indigenous peoples
- Create guide of culturally sensitive and respectful models of delivering Indigenous content and working with Indigenous peoples
- Expand mandatory Indigenous content throughout grades K-12
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While Québec has publicly expressed some commitment to including Indigenous content in the school system, significant work is still required to fully implement Call to Action 62.i, even after decades of appeals from Indigenous Peoples to include Indigenous content in the curriculum.
Québec recently revised its curriculum. While it mentions Residential Schools, the province did not consult with Indigenous people in its inclusion and there is concern about bias and inaccuracies. Treaties and the Contributions of Aboriginal Peoples are conspicuously absent, as well as key historical processes that are relevant to Indigenous peoples in the province. Parents and teachers have publicly committed to including more Indigenous content and have submitted an online petition demanding change in the province’s history curriculum.
A primary concern among critics of Québec’s curriculum is the lack of consultation with Indigenous communities in its development.
- Establish partnerships for Indigenous collaboration on curriculum development
- Develop mandatory content and teacher training on Treaties, Residential Schools and Contributions of Aboriginal Peoples from K-11 in consultation with Indigenous partners
- Create a guide for culturally sensitive and respectful ways to deliver Indigenous content and work with Indigenous peoples.
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Mandatory Treaty Education has been
part of Saskatchewan’s curriculum since 2007, and the subject is systematically addressed in age-appropriate steps from K-9, along with other issues such as the intergenerational impacts of Residential Schools. Optional Social Studies and Native Studies classes exist in grades 10-12.
Consultation with Aboriginal Peoples includes a co-management agreement regarding education between the Flying Dust First Nation and the Meadow Lake School Division, recognizing the authority of First Nations jurisdiction over education. The province has also developed resources for Indigenous language instruction from grades K-12, and Elders are engaged to support learning for Indigenous and non- Indigenous students.
- Expand education on Historical and Contemporary Contributions of Aboriginal Peoples
- Develop mandatory Indigenous content from grades 10-12.
- Develop teacher’s guide for culturally sensitive delivery of Indigenous content and working with Indigenous peoples
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The Yukon utilizes British Columbia’s curriculum, with an additional twenty per cent of class time focusing on local culture. The territory has also made a financial commitment of $500,000 to update the curriculum, including the integration of Yukon First Nations’ worldviews into grades K through 12.
Yukon’s Umbrella Final Agreement with The Council for Yukon Indians and the Federal Government includes recognition of Indigenous-led schools as an important process of self-determination and has signed agreements with multiple First Nations for the development of Indigenous-led curriculum and educational programming.
The territory has also developed resources and training for educators on subjects such as Residential Schools, as well as a mandatory cultural competency program for current and new teachers. There is ongoing dialogue, and debate, among parents and educators on approaches to teaching Indigenous content appropriately, respectfully and accurately.
- Explore approaches to delivering Indigenous content that responds to parental concerns
- Highlight the Historical and Contemporary Contributions of Aboriginal Peoples
- Create a teacher’s guide on culturally sensitive and respectful delivery of content and how to work with Indigenous peoples