Skip to main content

62. Develop and fund Aboriginal content in education

In progress - Projects underway


Currently, all provinces and territories include the history of residential schools in their curriculum, but not all of it is mandatory, and some provinces are now scaling back on their commitments to Indigenous content.

The Call to Action:

We call upon the federal, provincial and territorial governments, in consultation and collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal Peoples and educators to:

i) Make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada, a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade 12 students.

ii) Provide the necessary funding to post-secondary institutions to educate teachers on how to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms.

iii) Provide the necessary funding to Aboriginal schools to utilize Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods in classrooms.

iv) Establish senior-level positions in government, at the assistant deputy minister level or higher, dedicated to Aboriginal content in education.


Currently, all provinces and territories include the history of residential schools in their curriculum, but not all of it is mandatory, and some provinces are now scaling back on their commitments to Indigenous content.

Funding also varies among the levels of government, and only a few governments have senior-level positions in government dedicated to Indigenous content in education.

In October 2020, curriculum advisers for the Alberta government recommended changes to the kindergarten-to-Grade 4 curriculum for fine arts and social studies that would eliminate all references to residential schools.

As a result, in April 2021, the Sovereign Nations of Treaty 8 wrote to Premier Jason Kenney telling him to revisit the draft curriculum. The letter said the “glaring absence” of First Nations people from the writing process was “deeply offensive.”

In Ontario, some of the curriculum that initially included mandatory Indigenous content is now optional. Critics also say the content that is mandatory was drafted “without the necessary consultations to effectively address the TRC’s Calls to Action.”

Ontario’s previous Liberal government committed in 2016 to update course content at the elementary and secondary levels — including social studies, history, geography and civics — to teach all students about the legacy of residential schools.

But in 2018 those plans were scrapped by the next Progressive Conservative government, right before more curriculum-writing sessions with Indigenous educators and elders were set to begin.

The 2018 federal budget committed $3 million per year, for three years, to the First Nations University of Canada in Saskatchewan to develop the National Centre for Collaboration in Indigenous Education—a resource to help develop Indigenous education.


On the provincial and territorial front, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut led the way. In 2012 — three years prior to the TRC Calls to Action being released — they developed mandatory teaching modules on the history of residential schools.

In 2017, Government of the Northwest Territories began working with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, the governments of Nunavut, Yukon, the British Columbia Teachers Federation and the Edmonton Catholic School Board to develop teaching materials that address the issue of children who died at residential schools.

In 2015, in response to the TRC Calls to Action, British Columbia revised and broadened its student curriculum. As of the fall of 2015, revised curriculum including residential schools and reconciliation was made available for Grades 5, 10, 11 and 12.

In Saskatchewan, it is mandatory for students in Grades 4, 7, 8 and 10 to learn about residential schools in their social studies courses. They also learn about treaties from kindergarten to Grade 12 through the provincially mandated Treaty Education curriculum.

This mandate is supported by the Office of the Treaty Commissioner.

In Manitoba, there are lesson plans for all grades. In 2011, the province created an educational guide called “From Apology to Reconciliation,” for Grade 9 and Grade 11 social studies and history courses.

In 2017, Quebec revised a controversial history curriculum for high school students that included a greater focus on the experience of Indigenous Peoples.

The revisions came after critics charged the earlier version made little reference to the Indigenous and residential school experience. Critics argued the revised version showed little improvement.

In Nova Scotia, there is a mandatory module for Grade 7 students, though they can learn further about residential schools in optional courses offered for Grade 10 and 11 students.

The government further states that “the province has developed a Treaty Education Framework for Curriculum Development to guide all curricular projects by demonstrating methods to incorporate aspects of Mi’kmaq culture, history and worldviews in all subject areas from grades primary to 12.”

The framework helps bring in more Indigenous content and resources into classrooms each school year. Nova Scotia is also working on helping non-Indigenous educators become comfortable teaching the new content.

In September 2017, New Brunswick added advanced Mi’kmaw and Wolastoqey language courses to the provincial curriculum for high school students with First Nations backgrounds.

The new courses are part of a 10-year plan, announced in 2017, to create and implement mandatory Indigenous content curriculum for all students from kindergarten to Grade 12.

In Prince Edward Island, children learn about residential schools in Grade 9.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, children learn about residential schools in Grades 7 and 9.

In 2015-2016, Yukon introduced a mandatory unit about residential schools in the Grade 10 social studies curriculum.

In 2016-2017, the B.C. government also committed $350,000 to BCcampus, to “support the development of resources for all post-secondary institution faculty and staff,” in part, to help them support Indigenous students and communities.

But the funds were also committed “to incorporate Aboriginal content, teaching methods and other approaches of Indigenization into their educational practices.”

In 2017, the Alberta government announced a $665,000 grant to train more Indigenous language teachers.

In 2016, the Alberta government committed $5.4 million in professional development funding for teachers, specifically to learn how to better incorporate Indigenous, Métis and Inuit histories into their curriculum and teaching practices.

In June 2016, the Alberta government signed a joint commitment to action with invested provincial education stakeholders, to ensure that “professional learning needs of all education professionals in First Nations, Métis and Inuit education are addressed,” according to a written statement to CBC News.

The government committed $5.4 million over three years starting in 2016/2017.

Saskatchewan has a program to help kindergarten and Grade 1 teachers, with the help of parents and Elders, teach their students numeracy skills, using “culturally relevant teaching practices.”

In Nova Scotia, in the 2016-17 fiscal year, Education and Early Childhood development invested $140,000 in Treaty Education, the province told CBC News in a statement.

Regarding senior level positions in government, dedicated to Aboriginal content in education, Alberta has a dedicated First Nations, Métis and Inuit Education Division, but led by Assistant Deputy Minister Dr. Jane Martin.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Education has a First Nations and Métis Education Advisor in place, who reports, however, to the Deputy Minister.

Manitoba has created an Indigenous Inclusion Directorate (formerly the Aboriginal Education Directorate), mandated to create and support Indigenous teachings and curriculum, but the team reports to the Department of Education and Training.

In Nova Scotia, the province has a Mi’kmaq Services department, which acts as an educational conduit between the Department of Education and the province’s First Nations communities.

In Yukon, a First Nation School Board was established in February 2022, enabling Yukon First Nations to assume shared authority with the Government of Yukon in the delivery of public-school education in the territory.