Sudbury

Ministry of Education set to release Indigenous curriculum soon; partners' input to be added later

The province is preparing to release its revised Indigenous curriculum for Ontario high school classrooms, but the Conservative government won’t be collaborating with its Indigenous partners until after the plan is released.

Collaborators had been working on revisions under previous Liberal government, but work halted last summer

This month the Ontario Ministry of Education will be releasing its Indigenous curriculum for Grades 9-12, but partners and collaborators won't be able to provide their input until June. (CBC)

The province is preparing to release its revised Indigenous curriculum for Ontario classrooms.

But the Conservative government says it won't be collaborating with its Indigenous partners until after the plan is released.

In March, the Ministry of Education released its extensive plan to modernize the math, STEM and financial literacy curricula for schools. At that time it said the revised Indigenous curriculum for Grades 9-12 would be coming in May.

Under the previous Liberal government, collaborators and partners had been working on the revised Indigenous curriculum throughout the spring of 2018. But that work was halted last summer when the Conservatives took over.

There has been no consultation since between the government and those collaborators previously involved.

Serpent River First Nation Chief Elaine Johnston was one of them. She is also the chair of the Indigenous Trustees Council of the Ontario Public School Board Association.

Elaine Johnston is the Chief of Serpent River First Nation. She is also the chair of the Indigenous Trustees Council of the Ontario Public School Board Association. (Bryan Hendry/Supplied)

Johnston told CBC News she was recently emailed by a government official. She says they told her the ministry was planning a June meeting for Indigenous partners — First Nation, Inuit and Métis — involved in the Indigenous curriculum.

"What I was told is that they want to bring the original stakeholders together and say 'do we want to reconvene the group or do we want to start with something new?'" she said.

"I'm a little disappointed that it took so long."

Johnston says she doesn't believe the previous work was a waste of time.

"We need to build on what they've done or even reconvene them. So this is, I think, the discussion that needs to occur in June."

Ministry forges ahead

In an emailed statement to CBC News, the Ministry of Education stated:

"On March 15, we announced our plans to move forward with additional revisions to strengthen Indigenous content and learning across subjects, grades and courses. We look forward to working with Indigenous partners this Spring to co-develop an approach for these revisions.

This month, we will also be releasing the revised First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Studies curriculum for Grades 9-12 for implementation in September 2019. This curriculum will provide opportunities for students to learn about First Nation, Métis and Inuit perspectives, cultures, contributions and histories in areas such as art, literature, law, humanities, politics and history. Ontario will be investing over $3M to support implementation."

When pressed further, a spokesperson said the June meeting is to look at ways the ministry can further revise other areas of the curriculum, beyond what will be released.

Teachers' union left out

It will be high school teachers who will be delivering these new lessons to students in their classrooms. Yet the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation says the government hasn't included them in its creation of the revised Indigenous curriculum.

President Harvey Bishof says the Conservative government hasn't informed the union about anything connected to the Indigenous curriculum.

"My members are eager to be involved in [the revised Indigenous curriculum], but unfortunately this government has delayed the process," he said.

"They cancelled the consultations going on last summer that were set to go and have been completely silent since then."

Bishof says his members want to be involved in curriculum writing and curriculum delivery, and the union has reached out to the ministry on a number of occasions.

"Understand each others culture"

Johnston says she believes this education will be important for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

"How can we learn from each other and have those respectful relations in connecting our traditions and our knowledge with each other?" she said.

When it comes to upcoming lessons from the new revised Indigenous curriculum, she says she wants it to provide cultural knowledge, and an understanding, particularly for non-Indigenous students in the classroom.

"If they have an understanding of who we are as Indigenous people of this land, then I hope that it'll have better connections, better understanding, and this whole issue of reconciliation - if we need to understand each other and our different perspectives."

"And understand also each others culture."

About the Author

Angela Gemmill

Journalist

Angela Gemmill is a CBC journalist who has covered news in Sudbury, Ont., for 14 years. Connect with her on Twitter @AngelaGemmill. Send story ideas to angela.gemmill@cbc.ca