Experts pan ministry's cancellation of Indigenous curriculum revisions
Education minister says decision was taken 'unilaterally' by ministry officials
Experts are slamming the Ontario Ministry of Education's last-minute cancellation of an Indigenous curriculum revision project, worried the decision might signal the PC government's intention to abandon reconciliation efforts.
Educators and Indigenous elders from across the province were set to travel to Toronto to take part in curriculum revision sessions over the next two weeks, but participants received emails Friday afternoon telling them the project was cancelled.
Jody Alexander, vice-principal of Indigenous education at the Ottawa-Carleton District school board, said she was shocked and disappointed to hear the news.
"There's a clear message being sent that Indigenous people, their perspectives, their histories and cultures don't matter to mainstream society," she said.
"As an Indigenous person, it's almost as if you come to expect that things aren't going to be followed through."
'It just doesn't make sense'
In 2016, the previous Liberal government committed to update course content at the elementary and secondary levels — including social studies, history, geography and civics — to better teach Ontario students about the legacy of residential schools.
On Friday 4 pm <a href="https://twitter.com/fordnation?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@fordnation</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/ONeducation?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@ONeducation</a> cancelled <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TRC?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TRC</a> work to begin tomorrow. This is how <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Ontario?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Ontario</a> now does business.We should not be surprised the new govt thinks the Calls to Action do not apply to them. No <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Reconciliation?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Reconciliation</a> in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/OntEd?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#OntEd</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Indigenous?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Indigenous</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Truth?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Truth</a> <a href="https://t.co/4l80GzT606">pic.twitter.com/4l80GzT606</a>—@clclyne
In a statement issued Monday, PC Education Minister Lisa Thompson said the ministry "will continue to move ahead with the updated Truth and Reconciliation Commission curriculum revisions," but did not specify whether further sessions would be scheduled.
The decision to cancel the project was taken "unilaterally" by ministry officials, Thompson said, "with no direction" from her office.
That explanation doesn't fly with Jodie Williams, co-chair of the First Nations, Métis & Inuit Education Association of Ontario.
"Bureaucrats would never cancel something this important at the last minute on a whim," she said. "It just doesn't make sense."
In her statement, the education minister said all departments are looking for ways to operate more efficiently.
"In keeping with the commitment Premier Doug Ford made to run government more efficiently, all ministries will seek to carry out initiatives in the most cost-effective way possible."
The Ford government could say, 'No, we're going to make this happen.'- Gilbert Whiteduck, past president of the First Nations Confederacy of Cultural Education Centres
Williams said the government's decision betrays the province's commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.
"The one thing — at the end of the day — that all [residential school] survivors have said is that they want Canadians to know the truth about what has happened in Canada," she said.
"We have a chance to finally get things right."
'A missed opportunity'
Gilbert Whiteduck, past president of the First Nations Confederacy of Cultural Education Centres and a former chief of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation, describes the ministry's decision as "a missed opportunity to right some wrongs."
"It's so, so important that non-Indigenous schools ensure that there be a solid curriculum in regard to First Nations, in regard to the whole issue of residential schools, so indeed that we can move forward collectively, together on reconciliation," he said.
Regardless of who decided to cancel the curriculum revision project, Whiteduck says the PCs can't absolve themselves of responsibility.
"The Ford government could say, 'No, we're going to make this happen.' They have that authority. They have that power."
With files from Mike Crawley