The Current

B.C. moves to address 'racism of low expectations' for indigenous students

A troubling proportion of aboriginal students in B.C. are leaving high school with certificates designated only for special needs kids, a situation that shuts them out of post-secondary education. A provincial auditor general's report calls the practice "racism of low expectations."
Is racism behind some aboriginal students in B.C. getting high school certificates meant for special needs students? (Martine Laberge/Radio-Canada)

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For too many First Nations students in British Columbia, finishing high school means receiving something called an "Evergreen Certificate," not a proper diploma. The certificates were originally intended for special needs students. 

The government does not determine which students received the certificates, it's the school boards, the schools and the teachers. 

The province's auditor general has had some harsh words for the practice, calling it the "racism of low expectations." 

It seems some B.C. schools have taken to the Evergreen Certificates, giving them out just to get First Nations students out the door. But these certificates are not recognized by post-secondary institutions, and are of little help in the job market.

Racism directed at aboriginal people is pervasive in Canadian society across the board, and that manifests in a variety of ways in schools as well.- Glen Hansman, vice-president, B.C. Teachers Federation.

After the auditor general criticized the practice last fall, B.C.'s Education Ministry has now heeded the recommendation— restricting Evergreen Certificates to special needs students only, as of this month. 

Guests in this segment:

  • Sheila Dodds, assistant auditor general with the office of the auditor general of British Columbia, a lead on this report. 
  • Glen Hansman, vice-president of the British Columbia Teachers Federation.
  • Rebecca Chartrand, aboriginal educator and consultant for several Manitoba school boards. 

Have you experienced "racism of low expectations"? What do you think of B.C.'s move to end so-called Evergreen Certificates for First Nations students? Send us an email.

This segment was produced by The Current's Marc Apollonio and Karin Marley.