Sol Mamakwa, the MPP for the Kiiwetinoong riding and the Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation critic for the NDP, is calling on the Minister of Education, Lisa Thompson, to introduce Indigenous languages in schools across the province.
Mamakwa wrote an open letter to the ministry last week, asking for the provincial government to resume Indigenous curriculum development immediately.
“As a person who went to residential school myself, it troubles me that Ontario children may not learn about the traumatic experiences of many thousands of Indigenous children who suffered as a result of Canadian policy and law,” Mamakwa said, as part of his open letter.
This comes following the PC party cancelling writing sessions that were intended to make final revisions to a reconciliation curriculum, and to develop a curriculum to introduce children to Indigenous languages. Mamakwa says that the cancellation of the writing sessions were a ‘major misstep towards reconciliation’, and the decision puts the party’s commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission into question.
This isn’t the first time that Mamakwa has called on the PC party to improve relations with Indigenous people across the province.
In July, he called on Ontario Premier Doug Ford to explain why he removed reconciliation from the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs, and relegated the ministry to a ‘part-time minister’ – Kenora Rainy-River MPP Greg Rickford.
Earlier this month, Mamakwa said that the PC’s were moving backwards with reconciliation efforts, and are moving Ontario’s relationship with Indigenous people in the “wrong direction” - citing a lack of movement on cleaning up the mercury-poisoned river system in Grassy Narrows First Nation and Wabaseemoong Independant Nations.
Mamakwa’s open letter can be found below.
Last month, your government cancelled planned Indigenous curriculum writing sessions throughout the province, a major misstep on the road toward reconciliation that calls into question your government’s commitment to important calls to action outlined by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
At the time, you assured educators and families that your actions constituted a mere pause on the development of an Indigenous curriculum. Since then however, your government has moved us backwards, sidestepping commitments to clean up the mercury in Grassy Narrows, omitting any mention of Indigenous issues in the Speech from the Throne, and even dropping reconciliation from the Minister’s title. Given these actions - and as the MPP representing Kiiwetinoong, a riding comprised of a significant percentage of Ontario citizens of First Nations descent - I’m deeply concerned about the future of an Indigenous curriculum in Ontario schools. With the 2018-19 school year just weeks away, I ask that you immediately resume Indigenous curriculum writing sessions and share an updated timeline of when this will be completed.
In July, educators, Indigenous elders and knowledge keepers, and survivors of residential schools were set to travel to Toronto to take part in writing sessions to enhance Indigenous perspectives but at the last minute, these sessions were cancelled by your ministry, threatening the future of this initiative. The cancelled writing sessions were intended to make final revisions to a reconciliation curriculum and develop a curriculum to introduce children to Indigenous languages. These curriculum updates incorporate the lived experiences of Indigenous peoples into subjects taught in our schools – a hallmark of the TRC calls to action to educate young Canadians about the real history of Indigenous/government relations. Experts agree that forming better understandings between peoples early in life builds positive relationships later. Further, our shared Canadian values place acceptance, tolerance and respect for each other at the forefront of our relationships. Without a fully developed reconciliation curriculum in Ontario schools, all of this is at risk.
Finally, as a person who went to residential school myself, it troubles me that Ontario children may not learn about the traumatic experiences of many thousands of Indigenous children who suffered as a result of Canadian policy and law. Minister, delaying or cancelling Indigenous curriculum development will set progress towards reconciliation in this province backwards. Incorporating Indigenous content in our schools is vital to fulfilling Ontario’s commitment towards reconciliation.
Again, I ask that you immediately resume the curriculum development and let Ontario families know when they can expect Indigenous content in our classrooms.