An Abbotsford mother is furious over an assignment given to her 11-year-old daughter that called on students to research positive aspects of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools.
Up to 6,600 children are believed to have died in residential schools, while many others faced physical or sexual abuse at the institutions, which operated for more than 120 years.
Children were forcibly taken from their families and placed in the schools, which the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission found perpetuated “cultural genocide.”
Krista MacInnes, who is Indigenous, took to social media platform TikTok to share her outrage, calling the assignment “disgusting.”
“I was disgusted, and then I was outraged, and then honestly I was broken for my people,” MacInnes told Global News, Wednesday.
“That this was downplayed in such a horrible way that just completely discredited all the trauma that First Nations people have gone through in the aftermath of the residential schools.”
In a video posted Tuesday, MacInnes says her daughter, a Grade 6 student at Abbotsford’s W.A. Middle School, came home with the assignment to research five positive facts about the schools.
“They’re whitewashing the rape of our culture, the theft of our people and the genocide of just everything in general when it comes to First Nations people,” she said.
“They’re not teaching them the truth.”
MacInnes said the assignment was particularly insulting as the neighbouring community of Mission was home to St. Mary’s Residential School, which operated until 1984.
In a follow-up video, MacInnes said she can only think of one positive fact about the institutions.
“Some people survived. Physically. Mentally, no. But they physically survived it, so that’s one positive thing I can think of,” she said.
“And that didn’t come from residential schools, that came from people’s own strength during those situations.”
The Abbotsford School District said it has launched an investigation.
“Assignments like this are not acceptable. This incident is a disservice to the district’s commitment to truth and reconciliation,” said a spokesperson in a statement.
“We are committed to ensuring that all materials provided to our students are culturally responsive and recognize our responsibility to alert educators to implicit bias, colorblindness, and racism.”
The statement adds that the school’s principal had contacted McInnes directly to apologize.
“We are deeply sorry for any harm caused to the parents, students, families and the Indigenous community at large,” it said.
MacInnes says she’s waiting to hear what action the district will take to ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again.