Catholic board takes ‘first step’ towards reconciliation

Beginning this summer, all Grade 11 students at the York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) will learn about First Nations, Métis and Inuit histories, cultures, perspectives and contributions.

In keeping with a motion passed unanimously by trustees this spring, students will take the Understanding Contemporary First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Voices course for their Grade 11 English credit.

The course addresses two Calls to Action recommended by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) related to education. One of those Calls to Action: ‘make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement.’

The TRC was active from 2008 top 2015 as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, which was intended to compensate survivors for the harms they suffered in residential schools – government-sponsored religious schools that were established to assimilate Indigenous children into Euro-Canadian culture. The agreement also called for work towards a more just and equitable future for Indigenous peoples.

“By focusing on works by Indigenous authors, students will engage in an academically challenging and rigorous curriculum that will be relevant and more pertinent to the history of our country,” Mary Battista, Interim Director of Education, says of the new course. “I strongly believe that this shift will better prepare students for a world that is more reflective of the cultural diversity of Canadian society.”

“This is a first step that is long overdue and is what we have been working towards since 2007. The hard work has now become a reality and validates the ongoing work towards reconciliation,” says Todd Jamieson, member of the Oneida of the Thames First Nation, community partner, storyteller and steering committee collaborator.

The YCDSB has offered the Ministry of Education’s Understanding Contemporary First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Voices course (NBE3C/NBE3U) since 2016. Just 38 per cent of all Grade 11 students enrolled in the course this year. International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement students won’t be automatically enrolled in the NBE3U course because of the international and national structures of their programs. Instead, Indigenous units of study will be embedded in their Grade 9 to 12 English classes.

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