Teachers' Federation raises concerns about Sask. education minister's comments on Indigenous education

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation says it is very concerned about Education Minister Bronwyn Eyre’s comments regarding treaty education.

Organization says Bronwyn Eyre's comments could divide communities

Bronwyn Eyre said in the legislature last week that her Grade 8 son brought home a history assignment which denigrated his ancestors. (CBC News)

The Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation says it is very concerned about Minister of Education Bronwyn Eyre's comments regarding treaty education.

The education minister is facing criticism for comments she made in a recent speech in the legislature about the province's curriculum as it relates to Indigenous people.

"Education can be a form of reconciliation, and it is our shared duty as citizens to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada's calls to action," the STF said in an emailed statement Tuesday. "We are all treaty people, and treaty education must be a fundamental component of education in Saskatchewan."

The STF is asking Eyre to review the ministry's policy and curriculum documents to further Indigenous education.

"The minister's comments could serve to divide communities and create unsafe space for Saskatchewan teachers and students," the email continued. "Now is the time to renew our collective efforts to ensure education is a positive force for reconciliation."

Eyre brings up personal story in legislature 

"He'd copied from the board the following facts which were presented as fact: that European and European settlers were colonialists, pillagers of the land who knew only buying and selling and didn't respect Mother Earth," she said.

"He asked me if it was OK if he could write that he associated with his pioneer great- and great-great-grandparents because no one was writing down their vision of the world. And I said yes, of course."
Part of a speech by Bronwyn Eyre, highlighted, has garnered recent criticism. (Saskatchewan Hansard, Nov. 1, 2017)

The minister said it is worth considering whether some topics, such as Indigenous education, have become too "infused" throughout classroom teachings.

"One thing one might discuss is, should there be a specific course on … Indigenous history, history of residential schools and treaties and so on, in a high school-level course as opposed to maybe more infusion into social studies?" she said after being questioned Tuesday about her statements.

Treaty teachings about 'forging a path forward': NDP

Carla Beck, the NDP's education critic, said having Indigenous learning permeate a child's education is a good step toward reconciliation.

"One of the ways for it to be addressed is ensuring that students in our school systems have a good basis around treaty education but also that Indigenous students and non-Indigenous students have access to Indigenous ways of knowing infused throughout the school system," Beck said. "This is not meant to be pointing fingers and blaming and making children go home feeling poorly about themselves.

"This is about looking at our shared history in this province and forging a path forward."
NDP critic Carla Beck said she was concerned by Eyre's speech. (CBC News)

She did, however, say that teachings should be age appropriate and that educators should check in on children's perceptions.

Beck also said she is concerned that Eyre took a personal example of one child into the assembly and may make large education decisions based on it.

Eyre insisted that she doesn't think Indigenous teaching shames settlers, but said since Saskatchewan was the first province in Canada to mandate treaty education how "broadly and extensively infused" Indigenous teachings are in the curriculum is something that should be discussed.

Speech criticized in political blog

Saskatchewan political blogger Tammy Robert wrote about Eyre's legislature speech on her website, saying she was "threatening treaty education in the curriculum and broadly and politically condemning teachers, administrators and her own ministry."

Blogger Tammy Robert on comments by Bronwyn Eyre

5 years ago
Duration 4:07
Blogger Tammy Robert on comments by Bronwyn Eyre

"It's getting unsettling," she told CBC Tuesday night. "By suggesting that her own ancestor's history is as or more important than that of Saskatchewan Indigenous residents, she's really minimizing their experience and I believe she knows that's what she's doing."

Robert said Eyre's honest opinions were once respectable, but now that she has arguably one of the most important roles in the Saskatchewan, they're "troubling."

"Her words matter. Now she's either got to come clean on what she meant or just stop this all together," Robert said.