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Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls for sweeping changes

June 9, 2015 Cory Hare, ATA News Managing Editor

Report describes residential school system as “cultural genocide”

Numerous educational reforms are among the 94 recommendations contained in a report released by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada on June 3.

The commission has spent almost six years investigating the residential school system and its impacts on aboriginal people over the course of more than a century. The 388-page document, which is a summary of the final report that’s due to be released later this year, states that the goals of Canada’s aboriginal policy were to eliminate aboriginal governments, ignore aboriginal rights and assimilate aboriginal people so they would cease to exist as distinct entities.

“The establishment and operation of residential schools were a central element of this policy, which can best be described as ‘cultural genocide,’” the report states.

Several education-related recommendations suggest ways to improve funding for aboriginal education. Others centre on a call for aboriginal culture and residential school history to be incorporated into K–12 curricula across Canada.

“Since 2011, three major reports on First Nations education have concluded that the status quo is unacceptable and that there is a need for a complete restructuring based on principles of self-government, a culturally relevant curriculum and stable funding. All three reports agree that aboriginal peoples themselves must lead and control the process of change,” the report states.

The report also calls on governments to work with aboriginal people to provide post-secondary funding to educate teachers on how to integrate indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms and to share information and best practices on teaching curriculum related to residential schools and aboriginal history.

Alberta Teachers’ Association President Mark Ramsankar said the commission has done outstanding work in collecting information about “this dark part of Canada’s history.”

“The systemic abuse, racism and assimilation undertaken in the name of education through Canada’s residential schools is a blight on our country’s history,” he said.

“Canadians and all governments must seriously consider the recommendations of the commission to ensure that our aboriginal children have equal access to high-quality education and the support necessary to achieve equal outcomes.” ❚

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