December 15, 2015
Toronto, ON – The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report, tabled yesterday, provides an indelible pathway for our individual and collective need to heal and reconcile our past in order to move forward. Central to moving forward on an improved relationship between Indigenous people and Canadians is helping young Indigenous people and families meet and achieve their educational aspirations. Positive changes in the way education is delivered and experienced for Indigenous students will, in turn, make a tangible impact on all of the TRC’s 94 recommendations. As commission chair, Hon. Justice Murray Sinclair has noted, “It is through the educational system that non-Aboriginal Canadians have been taught what they’ve come to learn about Aboriginal peoples, or not learned about Aboriginal peoples in this country…we believe it is through the educational system that information can be corrected.”
There are some promising initiatives that reinforce Justice Sinclair’s notion that true reconciliation must begin in supportive and more enlightened and enlightening classrooms in our public schools and better resourced and effective schools on reserve. The establishment of the National Centre of Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba provides an accessible repository of historical records for educators and government ministries of education who need to heed the call to rewrite curriculum to share the truth in service of genuine reconciliation. More and more universities across Canada are including a mandatory Indigenous studies course for all students, regardless of undergraduate or graduate student status. Also critical is the need for provinces to re-tool the pedagogy and curriculum for those who teach in the pre-school, elementary and secondary levels of Canada’s schools to support the aspirations of Indigenous learners and the awareness of their non-Indigenous peers. With new Federal leadership, we also hope that the TRC’s recommendation for long overdue funding equity for on-reserve schooling relative to off-reserve investments in public education is in sight.
In this context, we too are steadfastly dedicated to responding to the Commission’s call to action. Given that quality education must be informed by excellent local school leadership, we are hopeful that our recently launched program to provide leading edge professional development opportunities for First Nations’ school principals, will make a difference. The Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative and the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education jointly lead the First Nations Schools Principals’ Course (FNSPC) for principals of First Nations schools across Canada. Our vision is to respond to the needs identified by First Nations political and education leaders by providing a unique, practical learning community experience for the principals that, in turn, will ultimately improve student achievement and wellbeing for children and youth in First Nations communities. While there is so much more that needs to be done, we applaud the TRC’s imperative that now is the time to begin anew with specific actions that move us forward as a nation. Education is an essential part of our collective progress and ensuring high quality school leadership in band-operated schools represents a strategic investment we believe will make a difference.
The Rt. Hon. Paul Martin
Martin Aboriginal Education Initiative
Professor Glen Jones
Interim Dean, OISE/University of Toronto
Professor Jean-Paul Restoule
First Nations Schools Principals’ Course Co-Leader