Indigenous

Cancellation of Ontario TRC curriculum writing sessions a 'setback,' says educator

It's been just over a week since Indigenous educators, Elders and knowledge holders were abruptly informed that Truth and Reconciliation curriculum revision writing sessions in Ontario had been cancelled, and there's still no word on if they'll be rescheduled.

'It is their responsibility that the Indigenous issues are available to students in Ontario'

In response to the TRC calls to action, the Ontario curriculum was set to be revised to introduce Indigenous content into classrooms. One phase of the process has been completed and will be implemented in the fall, although days before the second writing session was set to take place it was abruptly cancelled by the Ministry of Education. (Radio-Canada)

It's been just over a week since Indigenous educators, Elders and knowledge holders were abruptly informed that Truth and Reconciliation curriculum revision writing sessions in Ontario scheduled for this summer had been cancelled.

There have been no announcements yet if the writing sessions will be rescheduled.

Grace Fox, who spent 10 years at Spanish Indian Residential School and has more than 40 years teaching experience, said she is still reeling after receiving the notice that the sessions were cancelled.

About 50 people were to take part in the phase two sessions, and they were notified by email or phone the Friday before the sessions were set to start.

"I was more astounded that a professional organization would do this at that time — and for a Ministry of Education to cancel something at the 11th hour, it was unbelievable."

Fox, who is fluent in Anishinaabemowin, was going to be part of the writing session that focused on introducing Indigenous languages within kindergarten classes.

Responsibility

She said there will be more chances to pick up Indigenous language initiatives later, but said the actions of the ministry need to be rectified. 

"We as Indigenous people we will always be. We don't need the ministry to be who we are and don't need the ministry to promote the cause," said Fox.

"But it is their responsibility that the Indigenous issues are available to students in Ontario. Theirs, not ours."

Tesa Fiddler, the Indigenous education resource teacher for Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board, was involved in the writing sessions for phase one of the TRC curriculum enhancement that began in 2016.

The curriculum revisions are 'about giving teachers the opportunity to explore in more depth the history around Indigenous peoples and not just the tragic history,' says Tesa Fiddler. (Jody Porter/CBC)

She said the goal of this summer's sessions was to enhance the Ontario curriculum, not rewrite it completely, by keeping the core themes and infusing Indigenous knowledge across all subjects.

"This curriculum is about all Ontario students learning about the beauty and the intelligence and the existence of Indigenous Peoples in Ontario," she said.

She was taking part in the revisions for Grades 4-6 social studies, which are still set to be implemented in the fall despite the cancellation of the second phase of rewrites.

'It's discouraging'

Phase two was also going to focus on infusing Indigenous history into social studies for Grades 1-3, Grade 9 geography, career and civics for Grade 10 and also adjustments for senior high school social studies courses like anthropology and psychology.

"It was really about giving teachers the opportunity to explore in more depth the history around Indigenous Peoples, and not just the tragic history," said Fiddler.

She said the curriculum revisions from the first phase of the project are benefiting students and teachers. 

"Teachers have come forward and said that the learning that has happened through the first set of curriculum revisions has been some of the best learning that they've had in their entire education and work careers," said Fiddler.

She said cancelling the phase two writing sessions is a "setback." 

"It's discouraging for those teachers that are ready to to keep going." 

In a letter to Ontario Education Minister Lisa Thompson, Jodie Williams on behalf of the First Nations, Mé​tis and Inuit Education Association of Ontario called the move "a major setback to the progress that is being made" toward the calls to action on curriculum reform.

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