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Sir John A. MacDonald name debate a learning opportunity: B.C. indigenous education advocates

The Elementary Teachers Federation wants Sir John A Macdonald’s name removed from schools
WATCH: Ontario teachers are pushing to remove Sir John A Macdonald's name from schools, saying Canada's first Prime Minister committed genocide.

Indigenous education advocates in B.C. are backing a move by Ontario teachers to try and have Canada’s first prime minister’s name pulled from schools in that province.

The Ontario Elementary Teachers’ Federation is calling for the removal of Sir John A. MacDonald’s name over what it calls his role as the “architect of genocide against Indigenous Peoples.”

LISTEN: Do you think it’s fair to remove Sir John A Macdonald’s name from public schools?

READ MORE: The controversy over Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first prime minister, explained

MacDonald was in office when Canada established its first residential schools.

B.C.’s First Nations Education Steering Committee, an independent group that focuses on education for First Nations youth, says it supports the move.

READ MORE: Residential schools subjected students to disease, abuse, experiments: TRC report

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And they say it’s a chance to better address public knowledge of First Nations history.

“Nothing like that should be just knocking some statues down and [walking] away. It really needs to be an educational opportunity,” said committee president Tyrone McNeil.

Students need to be educated about why the debate is happening in Ontario, McNeil said.

WATCH: Canadian teachers unsure how to teach Indigenous content

Canadian teachers unsure how to teach indigenous content
Canadian teachers unsure how to teach indigenous content

And he said here in B.C., the curriculum needs to change when it comes to how students are taught about MacDonald – something he said needs to happen from elementary schools through to post-secondary.

“It may start with a first piece on the first P.M. But then it really leads into a much deeper conversation with respect to residential schools. There’s tremendous value in informing and educating all British Columbia and all Canadians about that.”

READ MORE: Teachers lack confidence to talk about residential schools: Alberta study

The final report produced by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 – which concluded that the residential school system was a form of cultural genocide — contained 94 recommendations, including that schools introduce mandatory curriculum on residential schools, treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ histories.

B.C. recently began a transition to a new curriculum for elementary and secondary schools, which is meant to include the integration of aboriginal perspectives and units on the history and ongoing legacy of the residential school system.

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