New B.C. school curriculum will have aboriginal focus

Residential school survivor Joe George, right, of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation, and elder Marie George embrace during the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada British Columbia National Event in Vancouver, on Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2013.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

VICTORIA - Students in British Columbia will learn about the ongoing legacy of Canada's residential schools when new curriculum is implemented.

The kindergarten-to-Grade-12 curriculum that addresses aboriginal history, culture and perspectives is about to be released to B.C. teachers and schools in preparation for the new academic year.

B.C.'s Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister John Rustad says in a statement that students will study topics such as discrimination, inequality, oppression and the impacts of colonialism.

He says kindergarten students will also be expected to learn about aboriginals' use of indigenous plants and animals, while Grade 5 students will learn about aboriginal environmental stewardship.

Rustad's comments are part of the B.C. government's response to the 94 recommendations contained in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report on the residential-school system.

After six years of hearings, the report concluded Canada's residential-school system was a form of cultural genocide.

"In education, B.C. is about to take a major step forward that will respond to one of the primary calls to action," says Rustad. "The integration of the history and ongoing legacy of the residential-school system will be further enhanced in the new curriculum, particularly when students' study topics such as discrimination, inequality, oppression and the impacts of colonialism."

Education Minister Peter Fassbender says in a statement that education brings positive change.

"Through the revised curriculum, we will be promoting greater understanding, empathy and respect for aboriginal history and culture among students and their families," he says.

The ministry says Grade 5 students will also be expected to learn about past discriminatory government policies, including the Chinese Head Tax.

It says secondary students will learn about the imposition of government structures on aboriginal communities when discussing topics such as injustice and social change in the development of human rights.

First Nations Summit Grand Chief Ed John said following the release of the commission's report that too few Canadians, especially children, are aware of the residential-school experience.

"You might want to learn about Prince Charles and the Queen, that's good, but you should also want to know about your own history in this province, and we don't see enough of that in terms of the relationships between First Nations and the public,'' he said.

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