Improve relations with Indigenous students, says school board
Elder doesn't put much stock in Premier Kathleen Wynne's apology for residential schools
The Greater Essex District School Board is hoping instructors teaching Ojibway and Oneida in two secondary schools will take a step in building relationships with its Indigenous students.
More than 400 students in the district identify as Indigenous. A lack of Indigenous language courses in the board has long been a point of criticism.
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Clara Howitt, the board's superintendent of education, told CBC News she has the green light to hire instructors for the courses. Students are already registering.
"What we need to be doing is building trust," Howitt said. "The way you build trust is by listening, by sharing, by trying, by making mistakes, reflecting and continuing to keep your eye on the ball of what is important."
The move comes as Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne officially apologized to Ontario's Indigenous communities for decades of mistreatment of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people.
Wynne gave the province's official response to last year's 381-page report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission on the abuses suffered by residents in Indigenous communities.
The report found children were physically and sexually abused and died in numbers that would not have been tolerated in any school system.
Ontario will spend $250 million over three years to help people understand the legacy of residential schools and to create what Wynne calls a culturally relevant and responsible justice system.
Elder unhappy with apology
Wynne recognized residential schools set out to "take the Indian out of the child" by removing them from their homes and systematically stripping them of their languages, cultures laws and rights.
Despite the premier's acknowledgement of "one of the most shameful chapters in Canadian history," her message did not sit well with everyone.
Mona Stonefish, an Indigenous elder in Windsor was a student in a residential school. She said she has no interest in Wynne's apology and believes nothing will change.
"I think her apology meant, and means nothing," Stonefish said. "It's empty. The words are empty, everything I read today is empty. I don't think much is going to happen."