This was the week a group of educators and experts from across the province were supposed to meet to write the next part of the Ontario school curriculum, focusing on the history and culture of Canada’s Indigenous peoples. But last Friday, the Ontario government abruptly cancelled the writing session.
The reason given was to save money on expenses but one of the people working on the sessions says that doesn’t make sense.
“The work has to get done. We made a commitment to do this work and most of the money, a good chunk of the money is spent already. We have people from all over Ontario coming, many in transit, people had spent money on car rentals, on hotels. To be told at the last minute is disgusting,” says Trent University professor Mitch Champagne.
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Whenever the curriculum writing session is restarted, Hiawatha First Nation Chief Laurie Carr says it’s vital the legacy of residential schools be a cornerstone and that survivors be a part of the creation of the curriculum on the history and culture of Canada’s Indigenous people.
“It’s their history, it’s their legacy, and it’s their sacrifice that they made, that they had to go through, to bring that understanding, to bring that truth to Canada,” says Chief Carr.
Indigenous elder, residential school survivor and Trent University professor emeritus Shirley Williams has been working on the curriculum. She says sometimes, it seems like the government’s attitude toward First Nations is dismissive.
“We’ve always been ignored. For the last 500 years, we were seen as less than human beings so that idea is still there. If there’s anything about aboriginal, ‘Oh, that’s not important,'” Williams said.