As provincial and territorial ministers of education gather in Vancouver for a meeting of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC), the BC Teachers' Federation welcomes their pan-Canadian focus on the theme of “Indigenizing Teacher Education.”
“BC teachers believe that education plays an essential role in the truth and reconciliation process,” said BCTF President Glen Hansman. “Because we know that truth must come first, before reconciliation is possible, we are deeply committed to decolonizing education and transforming our public schools into places of respect and celebration of the history, cultures, ways of knowing, and resilience of Indigenous peoples.”
Guided by its Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee, the BCTF has launched numerous initiatives to encourage more Indigenous students to enter the teaching profession, to educate teachers through professional development workshops and free access to learning resources, to infuse Aboriginal content across the curriculum, to change requirements for high school graduation and teacher training to include at least one course on Indigenous history and culture, and more.
Hansman noted that BC Premier John Horgan has committed his government to adopt and implement both the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).
He applauded this commitment, and urged special attention to Call to Action #57, which urges all levels of government to educate public servants “on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal-Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.”
“Wherever I travel in BC, I hear from Indigenous teachers, students, and their families who continue to experience racism on a daily basis. This is not just an historic problem. It's a contemporary one too and we want to work with government to address it meaningfully,” Hansman said.
“We're calling on education ministers across Canada to work with their respective teacher organizations to move forward with concrete plans, timelines, and content to equip teachers and all workers in the K-12 system with knowledge specific to the diverse Indigenous peoples of their respective regions and provinces.”
Hansman noted that BC is home to more than 200 First Nations communities whose diversity includes 30 unique language groups. Several of these languages are severely endangered and 22 are nearly extinct.
“We have all heard testimony from residential school survivors who were forbidden to speak their native languages and therefore lost that vital link to their cultures,” Hansman said. “Now it's time for all governments and public educators to dedicate ourselves to revitalization of Indigenous languages. We are extremely pleased that the BC government has announced $50 million toward this goal since the urgency cannot be emphasized enough.