Sudbury·Morning North

Residential school history already being taught in northern Ontario

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is calling on the government to ensure that the history of residential schools is taught to students of all ages across Canada — but it's already happening at some schools in northern Ontario.

"I share that I didn't know a lot about it, but how important it was that I became informed": Susan Mainville

In Sudbury, Susan Mainville taught a special unit on residential schools to her Grade 8 students for the first time this year. (Erik White/CBC)
We assembled a panel to talk about the TRC report. It included Michael Cachagee, a former residential school student, Jonathan Dewar, Director of the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre at Algoma University and Mike DeGagne, president of Nipissing University. 15:42

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission is calling on the government to ensure that the history of residential schools is taught to students of all ages across Canada — but it's already happening at some schools in northern Ontario.

In Sudbury, Susan Mainville taught a special unit on residential schools to her Grade 8 students at Churchill Public School for the first time this year.

She said they related to these history lessons more easily than other parts of Canadian history.

"A lot of the students do have trouble with history. A lot of their questions they ask me are, 'why are learning this? It's in the past.' And I explain to them, the effect of this still goes on today."

Mainville said most of her students were unaware of the history of residential schools until this year, including some who are of First Nation heritage.

"I share that I didn't know a lot about it, but how important it was that I became informed," she continued.

"And when they understand that you think it's important, they'll think it's important as well."

Mainville helped develop the curriculum for Sudbury area schools for covering the troubling history of residential schools.

While North Bay teacher John Hetherington agrees this history should be taught, he wonders about other must-learn chapters of Canadian history.

"If you want to make certain that everything gets included, I'm certain you'd have to extend the number of years in high school by three or four years," he said.

The federal government has not committed to implementing any of TRC's 94 recommendations.
(Darcy Hunter/CBC)