By Lethbridge Herald Opinon on November 11, 2020.
Dear Minister LaGrange and Shannon Philips, MLA Lethbridge West:
We write to encourage you to reject the proposed K-4 curricular changes. Because the UCP government is preoccupied with developing an unbiased curriculum intent on delivering the facts, we will begin by reminding you of three:
First, intersectionality has been mainstreamed by the United Nations. In this moment of transnational uprising against anti-Black racism, police violence, ongoing settler colonialism and widespread violence and structural forms of discrimination against BIPOC, thinking and rethinking intersectionality is of utmost importance.
Second, in the first Charter equality rights case, Justice McIntyre (as he was then) made one of the most straightforward assertions of equity: in an unequal society it is necessary to treat people differently in order to yield equality of result. This is the meaning of equality under the law that women’s groups, including representatives of NWAC, fought to have included therein.
Third, we would like to remind you that in 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada released its final report containing the following call to action:
“62. We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, in consultation and collaboration with survivors, Aboriginal peoples, and educators, to:
Make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for kindergarten to Grade 12 students.”
Individually we would like to say:
“As a Blackfoot grandmother from southern Alberta, and as a survivor of residential school (St. Mary’s) on the Blood Tribe or Kainai, I am totally against the deletion of the residential school era from the Alberta curriculum. I believe this would be a drastic regression and in view of the current COVID-19 and rising emotions, your party can expect a backlash or rallies opposing this decision. Canada was deluged with 80 residential schools from the colonization days, and all the work up to today, in regards to healing the generational effects, would be minimized. This will not be accepted by Indigenous leaders and people. Our history needs to be included as part of Canadian history, so that all Alberta children including white children can learn the history of their Indigenous brothers and sisters.”
“I am asking you to stand against these changes. The removal of equity and guided principles of fairness from the curriculum is not a decision that is grounded in current research. The removal of residential schools from the K-4 curriculum is unconscionable and unethical. I call upon the Government of Alberta to uphold the values laid out by the TRC.”
“Indigenous knowledge, histories, equity, intersectionality and the impact of settler colonialism are foundational to ‘core knowledge’ allowing children to see the world through a diverse lens and for critical analysis. The teachers of today and the future ought to be confident in their ability to teach about Indigenous knowledge and equity.”
“By Grade 1, studies show that students understand race and gender differences. The way children respond to this knowledge is learned. Your contribution to ongoing colonization and structural racism is not going unnoticed.”
“Removing the impact of settler colonialism and residential schools will deprive children of the truthÉ I agree that bringing the artwork of Claude Monet, Georgia O’Keeffe, Pablo Picasso and Edgar Degas into the curriculum along with the study of the world religions helps to open the minds of younger children, but children need to know their history, the good and bad…”
“Hearing about this proposal had/still has me in shockÉ this is white settler colonialism at its finest. I wonder how future generations are supposed to learn from the past when they are not taught about it? I am also embarrassed that Alberta is suggesting we indoctrinate our students with Bible verses. Our government not only needs to do better, but clearly think better.”
“This proposal for education reform is saturated with the privilege to have lived without fear of your culture being ripped from you by those that claim to want the best for all of Canada. The privilege to forget about the genocide that has and still is occurring in a country that portrays itself as safe. Some do not have this privilege, to close their eyes at night and forgetÉThese proposed curriculum changes are rich in racism and are a modern-day example of colonialismÉ it is our duty to ensure that the stories of those that survived residential schools and their families are not forgotten.”
“Eliminating ‘equity” from the education promotes discrimination and racism. First graders learning Bible verses and being told that most non-white Albertans are Christians? This is racism. This is like pre-deciding for kids on their religion path… The church is in a better position to teach Bible verses. The proposed changes to remove Indigenous studies? This, by itself, is a sign of colonialism.”
“The kind of education that is being recommended is propaganda. I grew up in rural Alberta, and I didn’t learn about residential schools at all. I didn’t learn about what they are, what they did, until I was in my first year of university. Now I’m taking courses to educate myself on the real colonial history of CanadaÉif we want to put the TRC into action, education is the best place to start. Kids are way smarter than we give them credit for, and they can handle learning the truth about their countryÉ”
“Éthe proposed changes to the Alberta curriculum create a stain on our national and international reputation by ignoring the recommendations of the TRC. Saying that most non-white Canadians are Christian is an egregious oversimplification that erases the identities, cultures and lived experiences of thousands of children and their familiesÉ Furthermore, highlighting white male poets, authors and artists is regressive…”
“In the years to come, it is my plan to become an elementary school teacher. The proposal to eliminate residential schools from K-4 is outrageous. As someone who grew up knowing hardly anything about this history and only began to acknowledge my roots in my first year of university, not only have I grown up not knowing the harm done to Indigenous peoples, but I grew up in a community of discrimination. For years longer than I have been alive, people of all genders and backgrounds have been fighting for equalityÉ if children have the knowledge, they can change the world for the better.”
“It is hypocritical to attempt to remove Indigenous history and equity from the curriculum on the grounds of being ‘biased,’ while simultaneously attempting to integrate creationism and the memorization of bible verses into teachings.”
“Learning about Indigenous communities was always my favourite part of social studies. I benefited from hearing about what different people had gone through in residential schoolsÉ This topic is too important to sweep under a rug, wait until Grade 9, or refuse to teach or acknowledge anymore. If you take this topic out of the curriculum, you are enabling that kind of mindset to happen again.”
We sincerely hope that these proposed changes will be rejected and appropriate action will be directed at those responsible.
WGST2300 students, University of Lethbridge:
Elaine Creighton Fox, Cristina Miller, Dana Wanagot, Amy Lambert, Gloria Oviawe, Mikayla Blais, Kathleen Mah, Sali Rugeiyatu, Taylor Blais, Sorcha DeHeer, Sienna Lehtinen, Merrin Monteith and Shaylee Ledoux