Treaty education key to ending racism in Sask., says new commissioner

Mary Culbertson, Saskatchewan’s new treaty commissioner, says treaty education in schools is the key to ending racism.

Treaty commissioner Mary Culbertson also plans to build understanding between First Nations and Crown

Lawyer Mary Culbertson has been appointed to a three-year term as the Saskatchewan treaty commissioner. (Bridget Yard/CBC News)

Saskatchewan's new treaty commissioner says treaty education in schools is the key to ending racism.

Mary Culbertson, who has been appointed to a three-year term, said she never learned about First Nations treaty partnerships or socio-economic issues when she was at school.

"I firmly believe that education is the vehicle that is going to someday end racism and discrimination towards First Nations," she said on Friday.

She thinks Saskatchewan could be a different place if that education had been a bigger part of the school curriculum in the past.

"If that treaty relationship had been explained from when we were young ages in our schools, maybe we wouldn't be facing the dilemma and the contrasting ideas, the racism today, that we see."

The commissioner's role is to bring the federal and provincial governments and First Nations together to help honour treaty promises.

Culbertson said addressing issues of jurisdiction will be among her priorities as the new commissioner.

She also plans to focus on finding "common ground" and facilitating understanding between First Nations and the Crown.

Culbertson spoke Friday at a news conference announcing a memorandum of understanding on reconciliation through treaty education in Saskatchewan.

The agreement was signed by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, the Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre, the Office of the Treaty Commissioner and the Saskatchewan School Boards Association.

Culbertson is a member of the Keeseekoose First Nation in Saskatchewan and has worked with Battleford's Sunchild Law in the areas of family, criminal and Indigenous law, as well as in dispute resolution.

She also worked for the federal government in the areas of emergency preparedness, and for the Correctional Service of Canada.

Culbertson has also previously worked for the FSIN in the area of inter-governmental affairs and relations.

With files from CBC's Bridget Yard