Making Aboriginal education a priority!
Aboriginal education has long been neglected by the Canadian government. Despite a rise in the educational level of Aboriginal people, there are still striking discrepancies between the educational level of aboriginal Canadians and that of non-Aboriginals. Gaps in curricula across Canada today make Aboriginal education initiatives more necessary and important than ever. Of note, the Canadian government has committed to enhancing the First Nations Education Infrastructure Fund for 2016-2017.
The Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) and its Member
organizations have initiated various actions to encourage and support Aboriginal
people with regard to education, including the development of tools,
publications and initiatives related to Aboriginal education. These help Member
organizations to better address their members’ needs and to better inform and
educate parents and communities. Below are some of the many activities conducted by CTF
and its Member organizations.
Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) has implemented several initiatives for its members, supporting Aboriginal education and Aboriginal students, including workshops, tools to incorporate Aboriginal content in the curriculum, brochures, symposiums, and leadership opportunities for First Nations, Métis and Inuit women. (See the article by Rachel Mischene in this issue of Perspectives.) For more information, visit the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario website.
Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation
In addition to supporting Saskatoon Public Schools’ objective to help Aboriginal students to develop skills in contemporary and traditional music, song, dance and storytelling through mentoring and performance, the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) has implemented many initiatives in support of Aboriginal students. Renée Carrière, a science teacher from STF, started to incorporate aspects of Aboriginal culture into her class to engage students and increase success rates. STF also provides teachers with professional development opportunities on how to incorporate Aboriginal education in the classroom. Saskatchewan teachers and school administrators took part in the “We Are All Treaty People” project established by the Government of Saskatchewan and the Office of the Treaty Commissioner to incorporate the teaching of treaties in K-12 curriculum. See the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation website for more information.
Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association
Each year, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) hosts a workshop on human rights before its annual general meeting. The 2016 workshop focused on the blanket exercise from KAIROS to raise participants’ awareness of the history of Aboriginal rights. For more information, visit the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association website.
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society
With the help of retired teacher Mark Blieske, the Lockport School in St. Andrews, Manitoba, hosted a workshop called Tillikum Lens/Paddles Across Canada. This initiative led by the Tillikum Lens Project aims to motivate and inspire Aboriginal students by showing them the power of photography to tell their story. Visit The Manitoba Teachers’ Society website to learn more about its initiatives and activities.
The Alberta Teachers’ Association
In addition to supporting First Nations, Métis and Inuit education, The Alberta Teachers’ Association holds an annual conference, the Annual Diversity, Equity and Human Rights Conference for Locals. It also offers subsidies in support of diversity, equity and human rights. Visit The Alberta Teachers’ Association website for more information.
Yukon Teachers’ Association
The Yukon Teachers’ Association supports Aboriginal education by providing teachers with the tools they need to better help their students, including access to the Yukon Native Language Centre, which offers linguistic training to teachers. The Association is also working to ensure that the new curriculum coming into effect in June 2016 will respect and represent the Yukon context and the perspectives of Yukon’s First Nations. The Association also supports Aboriginal students in their schooling through Indspire, a charitable organization that offers scholarships to Aboriginal students. Visit the Yukon Teachers’ Association website for more information.
Northwest Territories Teachers’ Association
The Northwest Territories Teachers’ Association has put in place an initiative called On the Land, which includes all kinds of programs designed to provide students with the opportunity to learn not only in class but also outside the school, in the community. Activities differ according to the teachers who offer them, and may consist in hunting, fishing, canoeing, trapping, etc. The Association also runs an annual compulsory workshop for teachers, designed to raise teachers’ awareness of Aboriginal culture in the Northwest Territories.
In addition, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon have incorporated the issue of residential schools into the Grade 10 curriculum from the perspective of their respective Aboriginal peoples. Visit the Northwest Territories Teachers’ Association website for more information.
Canadian Teachers’ Federation
The Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) has carried out a project that supports Aboriginal education. In partnership with Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, CTF led the collaborative project Speak Truth to Power (STTP) Canada with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the Assembly of First Nations and the Inuit Tapiirit Kanatami. STTP Canada is a teacher tool designed to facilitate learning about human rights. Its lesson plans feature Canadian human rights defenders, including Aboriginal leaders: Wilton Littlechild (on the theme of truth and reconciliation), Mary Simon (on the theme of cultural identity and education) and Tim Thompson (on the theme of equitable education for all). Some lesson plans are also written in Aboriginal languages. In addition, together with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Commission, CTF is producing a classroom discussion booklet to help students better understand the history of residential schools. The booklet is to be published in the fall of 2016.
The above initiatives and activities are only a sample of what CTF and its Member organizations do to promote Aboriginal education, especially among teachers and students. This important work supports the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action in education.