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Education the key to addressing racist attitudes against Indigenous people


September 15, 2020 Adam North Peigan, President, Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Alberta

As we enter a new school year, it is not without controversy as the government of Alberta has recently appointed Chris Champion as an advisor to the K–4 curriculum review panel. Champion moves into his new role and brings with him strong opinions about the Indigenous People of Turtle Island (Canada) — opinions that are outright racist and that promote hatred toward Indigenous people.

Champion has published and edited for the Dorchester Review and is quoted as referring to victimhood centered on residential school survivors as over the top, which minimizes the impacts of residential schools in Canada. This is an outright attack on the integrity of our survivors, who are now Elders in our Indigenous communities in Canada.

Chris Champion’s belief that the inclusion of First Nations perspectives in school lessons is a fad is absolutely deplorable and lacks insight into the true history of Canada. Further, he writes that the KAIROS blanket exercise brainwashes children. This is ridiculous and once again questions the integrity of Indigenous people.

The era of colonization, the signing of treaties, residential schools, the Sixties Scoop, and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls are all an important part of Canada’s history. The Truth and Reconciliation commission tabled 94 Calls To Action and lists as a strong action item that governments create age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, treaties and Indigenous people’s history in Canada.

Most recently, Indigenous leaders in Alberta called for the removal of Chris Champion as an advisor to the curriculum review panel, as it was felt that his views were not favourable to the development of meaningful curriculum. Thus far our calls for change have been unanswered, as the government continues to support this individual. Also, it has become common knowledge that Champion worked for Jason Kenny when the latter was a federal cabinet minister. It can be interpreted that Champion’s recent assignment to the curriculum review panel is a patronage appointment. Personal handouts like this, on the backs of all Albertans, must stop.

It is vitally important that our children are taught the true history of Indigenous people in our classrooms as an investment in developing our future leaders as they move into influential careers. If you as teachers can influence our children now with the appropriate teaching of true curriculum, it will only help shape their future when it comes to developing and implementing policy decisions.

I believe that Chris Champion’s perceptions of Indigenous people have no place in our classrooms, and his appointment to advise on curriculum review is not promoting reconciliation.

As teachers in the classrooms,  you have a great responsibility to ensure that our kids are being taught the true history of Canada and to be mindful, whenever appropriate, that it’s OK to bring Indigenous people into your classrooms as resources. There are also numerous resources available throughout the province, whether they be from the ATA, the Alberta School Boards Association, museums or your local Friendship Centre.

The Sixties Scoop Indigenous Society of Alberta (SSISA) has been a strong advocate in promoting education on the atrocities of the Sixties Scoop to mainstream Albertans. We have in our possession the National Sixties Scoop Exhibit, which is available upon request, that would be ideal for all schools in Alberta as an appropriate educational tool. It is our belief that providing venues for reconciliation is an opportunity to influence unhealthy attitudes that fuel racism toward Indigenous people. ❚

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