New Quebec high school history course called out for lack of diversity
Pilot project for new 2-year history course doesn't represent 'plural nature of our society,' teacher says
Teachers and education experts are raising concern that Quebec's newly revised high school history course centres too much around French-English conflicts, fails to reflect the province's diversity and makes scant mention of Canada's residential school system.
The curriculum, obtained by CBC News, is being piloted this year in several dozen schools across the province, including at least three English schools.
It's slated to be rolled out more widely in classrooms starting next year.
The course was originally developed under the previous Parti Québécois government, which had campaigned in 2012 on a promise to emphasize Quebec's struggle for nationhood in the provincial school curriculum.
"The plural nature of our society and the diverseness of our community isn't represented at all in the program as I read it," Commins said in an interview.
"I think this is a deep concern. One of the toughest things about teaching history is when you can't relate it to your students on a very micro level by talking about them, their stories, their grandparents, their ancestors and how they are related to this political space in Quebec."
'Demands and struggles of nationhood'
The 83-page document outlines the focus of the course, which starts in the 1500s and runs to present day.
[Students] have gone through the Canadian education system without actually understanding or acknowledging Canada's history of colonialism with indigenous people.- Allan Vicaire , McGill University
The two-year course is set to be rolled out for all Secondary 3 students next year, with Secondary 4 added in 2017-2018. It has yet to be finalized by Quebec's Education Ministry.
Advocates for the revised curriculum argued previous versions of Quebec high school history had glossed over difficult moments in the province's history, such as the 1837 uprising led by Les Patriotes against the British Canada.
This first year of the new course ends with a section entitled, "The demands and struggles of nationhood 1791-1840."
Commins said many immigrant communities that helped shape Montreal, including the Irish, Italians, Greek and Caribbean populations, get little mention.
The Jewish community is also not referenced, aside from a nod to Leonard Cohen.
The Education Ministry did not return a request for comment Thursday.
Little mention of residential schools
The new curriculum document contains only a single reference to residential schools, saying they "helped accelerate the decline of indigenous languages."
Allan Vicaire, an indigenous education adviser at McGill University, said he would have liked the province to consult with First Nations and other groups.
"They've gone through the Canadian education system without actually understanding or acknowledging Canada's history of colonialism with indigenous people," he said.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report, issued last June, recommended residential schools be emphasized in history curriculum across the country.
After the report was released, Premier Philippe Couillard told reporters he would like the history of First Nations and their contribution to the building of Canada to be taught in Quebec schools.
In August, a spokesperson for the education ministry told CBC that its history curriculum is currently under review.
"The new version of the program will address the issue of residential schools. The time spent on the studies of this historical knowledge will depend on the planning of each teacher," the email said.