The180·The 180

OPINION: Would boarding schools improve First Nations education?

First Nations education expert Waubageshig (Harvey McCue) has been working to improve the educational experience of aboriginal kids for decades. Now, he's proposing aboriginal kids be removed from their communities and put into boarding schools.
Survivors of St. Michael's Indian Residential School gathered to witness the school's demolition in Alert Bay, B.C. on February 18. (Reconciliation Canada/Facebook)
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For decades, Canada's First Nations have been dealing with the fallout of residential schools. But now, educator Waubageshig (Harvey McCue) says it's time to consider taking children off reserves, and sending them to boarding schools. He says the problems created by residential schools mean some students are not getting the care and education they need at home-- but a boarding school with well-trained staff and an appropriate curriculum could solve that. 

Waubageshig has worked in First Nations education since 1969, and says there are still many things wrong with it, including: curriculum, teacher training, a lack of traditional culture, and the conditions in which many students live. He says some students live in "toxic environments," and need to be cared for. Boarding schools would get them out of crowded homes, away from the threat of abuse, and access to nutritious food. 

He admits, in some cases, children would need to be removed from their homes and sent to boarding school-- just like past generations, but says that's just what must be done: "I'm troubled to have to refer to that model, but I'm more troubled by the knowledge that a lot of these kids...need protection, they need love, they need better living conditions." 

Why not just fix the existing problems in the system? Waubageshig says he's in favour, but right now he just doesn't see the will-- from professionals or from government, First Nations included. And even if there is an appetite to make changes, it will take time. 

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