The Current

History of residential schools ignored in Canadian curriculum

One of the key recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Report is more education about the legacy of residential schools. It's a chapter of Canadian history surprisingly lacking in our schools' curriculum. Today we look at the efforts to change that.
St. Michael's Indian Residential School, 1970. Canada's residential-school system , church-run, government-funded institutions, operated for more than 120 years. (The Canadian Press/Library and Archives Canada)

Residential Schools for First Nations children are a chapter of our history we've been hearing a lot about in the past week, since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission - or TRC - released its final report

The stories it contains confirm just how formative the Residential School era was in shaping Canada today. 

And yet, it's a chapter that's largely absent from the text books and curricula used to teach history in our schools. 

One recommendation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's final report was to change that... and to make lessons about Residential Schools mandatory for all Canadian kids, from kindergarten through Grade 12.

For thirty years, Charlene Bearhead has worked as a teacher, principal, education director and superintendent at on- and off-reserve schools in Manitoba and Alberta. She is now an education coordinator for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Charlene Bearhead joined us from Edmonton. 

There are already some great resources to relate the gravity of the residential school system in the classroom .... even for very young kids.

One book is called "Shin-chi's Canoe" written by First Nations author Nicola Campbell.

Residential schools are not the only modern tragedy that was excluded from our text books. There was a time in the not-too-distant past when the Holocaust received just a few lines in the histories of the Second World War. 

Bernie Farber helped change that. He is the former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress. He joined us in our Toronto studio to discuss his experience of changing curricula to include an ignored piece of history. 

Are your kids learning about residential schools in Canada?  Are you a student who is learning about the school's legacy?

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