Alberta students may soon learn more about the history of residential schools, and their devastating impact on indigenous people, as part of their curriculum.
Students learn about residential schools in Grade 10 but not in the kind of depth the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has called for.
“The only thing I knew was a little blurb from a textbook that I was only just quizzed on,” said student Zeynep Ozdemir.
This week, Alberta Education Minster Jeff Johnson promised to develop better and expanded content for students. But there is no word on when the changes will be implemented.
Terry Godwaldt, a teacher at Edmonton’s Queen Elizabeth High School, believes students need to to be taught more.
The director of the Centre for Global Education in Edmonton, Godwaldt recently gathered 300 students from across Alberta to talk about residential schools and learned they knew very little about this dark chapter of Canadian history.
“It didn't matter if they were from aboriginal backgrounds, the big cities, or the small towns, there was — to tell you the truth — a shocking lack of knowledge about the residential schools and part of our history,” he said.
Over the past month, students learned about the schools by talking to survivors, hearing first hand about their devastating impact.
“It changed a lot because you got to hear more in-depth stories of people who actually went through it, get a closer look at the repercussions after the residential school system,” student Danielle Burrill said
Patti Laboucane-Benson from Native Counselling Services of Alberta has researched the subject for a decade.
She thinks a more developed curriculum would help people understand the lasting effects.
“There's a high population of aboriginal people in our federal and provincial institutions,” she said.
“As many as 70 per cent of the children on child welfare caseloads right now are aboriginal.”
The students in Godwaldt’s class will make presentations on what they learned when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission holds hearings in Edmonton starting Thursday.