Métis Nation of Alberta has ‘monumental concerns’ with proposed curriculum

Click to play video: 'Alberta’s revamped curriculum raises questions over history, religion and equal representation'
Alberta’s revamped curriculum raises questions over history, religion and equal representation
WATCH: Alberta's new proposed school curriculum is being criticized for the way it covers religion and leaves out certain perspectives. Tom Vernon reports. – Mar 30, 2021

The Métis Nation of Alberta is calling on the province to redraft its proposed kindergarten to Grade 6 curriculum.

“For there to be true inclusivity in the curriculum, representation from many voices must exist at every level of the curriculum-making process and that includes Métis voices,” said Audrey Poitras, MNA president.

“Our citizens were shocked, and we are disheartened, to see our input and collaboration reduced to nothing more than a side-note in the draft that was presented to the public.

“The tone of the curriculum carries a Eurocentric-American point of view that effectively eliminates the voice and history of the Métis Peoples in Alberta,” Poitras continued.

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She said all Indigenous people need to be reflected in the curriculum: First Nations, Metis and the Inuit.

“The Metis have a very vibrant history and culture within Alberta, within Canada. When we had citizens sitting on committees, I think we hoped that it would reflect that, and it hasn’t.”

“There are clear pieces that just don’t tell the story,” Poitras added. “If this is about having a curriculum that teaches our children, then it needs to be accurate.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta government releases revamped K-6 school curriculum'
Alberta government releases revamped K-6 school curriculum

The draft curriculum was released by the UCP government on Monday for Albertans to review.

It has already sparked concerns, specifically with its sections on social studies, religion and Indigenous history.

In a news release Wednesday, the MNA said it has “monumental concerns” with the proposed curriculum’s undertones.

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The group says the MNA and its education and training affiliate Rupertsland Institute “had very little input into the design of the curriculum despite several attempts to be included in the committees that were established.”

The MNA said it expressed “deep concerns about the lack of transparency by the government of Alberta leading up to the release of the draft curriculum” in a letter to Alberta’s minister of education.

“This is another example of Alberta’s continued colonial practice over Métis peoples,” said Poitras.

“The secretive approach under which this process was taken undermines the collective approach valued by our communities and it is unacceptable.”

The Metis Nation of Alberta is calling on the province to redraft the K-6 curriculum “in collaboration with the Métis and other Indigenous groups in Alberta to address concerns about United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and allow the government to uphold recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to abolish colonialism in this province.”

“Métis people were not a side-note in the curriculum development process,” a spokesperson for Alberta Education told Global News in response to the Metis Nation of Alberta’s calls.

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“We have very much appreciated the work Rupertsland Institute has done as part of the Indigenous Education and Reconciliation Circle and through other consultations and engagements.

“Prior to the public release of the curriculum, Minister Lagrange had a positive meeting with Rupertsland Institute, where she made clear their feedback on the draft curriculum would be welcomed. Since the release, the education department has been in contact with the institute and looks forward to receiving further feedback,” Justin Marshall, press secretary for Minister LaGrange said.

Click to play video: 'Alberta education minister speaks about curriculum review panel'
Alberta education minister speaks about curriculum review panel

“In both French and English Language Arts and Literature courses, students will study oral traditions and stories of the Métis people. They will also learn about Métis lobsticks and their significance. Students will also learn about Métis jigging and the individual and collective benefits of the dance.

“In Science, students will learn about objects created from natural materials by First Nations, Métis, and Inuit, such as Dene birchbark baskets, Métis travois, canoes, and Inuit scraping tools such as an ulu. Students will also learn that the use of these materials is informed by traditional knowledge, sustainability, and other factors.

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“In Social Studies, students will learn about the fur trade, and specifically about the involvement of Métis people, especially women at that time. Students will learn that Fort Chipewyan on Lake Athabasca was home to Cree, De’né and Métis peoples as well as traders.

“In Grade 4, students will learn about Louis Riel, Métis nationhood, and the suppression of the Red River and North West resistance.

“They will learn that Métis scrip was an attempt by the government to compensate Métis for the loss of land base through their acquisition of Rupertsland and that very few Métis were successful in exchanging scrip for land. Students will understand that this is an example of Métis people being displaced and that Métis people faced further challenges moving west.

“They will learn that Alberta is home to the only recognized Métis settlements in Canada, and they will be able to identify the eight settlements,” Marshall said.

Click to play video: 'Cree Elder who reviewed Alberta’s new K-6 curriculum says she can’t endorse it'
Cree Elder who reviewed Alberta’s new K-6 curriculum says she can’t endorse it

Poitras is encouraged the ministry seems willing to continue working on the draft curriculum and has been in touch with the Rupertsland Institute again.

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“We truly tried to be part of this process to make sure that our history and culture would be in there and it’s just not reflected in there,” she said.

“I’m not saying that maybe this isn’t going in the right direction, it’s just that all the time our citizens have had input into those committees, we had hoped that it would reflect better than it does.”

“You need to also prove it in actions; not just say it,” Poitras said.

Click to play video: 'Northwest Territories weighs dropping Alberta education curriculum for B.C.’s: NDP'
Northwest Territories weighs dropping Alberta education curriculum for B.C.’s: NDP

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange said the draft curriculum is to be piloted in some schools this fall.

It overhauls study in eight core subjects to stress fundamentals and real-life skills and applications.

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“The final draft of this curriculum will not be finalized until 2022, so we have lots of opportunity to hear from Albertans and hear what is important to them,” LaGrange told Global News on March 26.

Throughout its development, LaGrange has assured Albertans that Indigenous perspectives and history will be a key component of the updated curriculum.

Lesson plans will expand across all core subjects for students starting in Grade 1. In Grade 5, students will begin to learn about the creation, mandate and impacts of residential schools on children, and the banning of First Nations, Metis and Inuit languages and ceremonies by the Canadian government.

Click to play video: 'Proposed new Alberta social studies curriculum called ‘embarrassing’ and ‘ideological’'
Proposed new Alberta social studies curriculum called ‘embarrassing’ and ‘ideological’

The premier was asked about the reaction to the proposed curriculum during an event in Lethbridge Wednesday.

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“I’m very happy to see widespread endorsements of this curriculum — from parents, from subject matter experts, from First Nations leaders, from culture community leaders and many more,” Jason Kenney said.

“Our government was elected on a commitment to consult broadly and openly on the development of a curriculum that will place the focus on key knowledge and skills.

“There’s more recognition by far, for example, the history of First Nations and different ethnic, cultural and faith communities in this curriculum than in any curriculum in our history.”

Kenney stressed this version is a draft, “meaning it’s there to get feedback and there will be changes.”

“We’re eager to hear from parents, teachers, subject matter experts, and others about how it can be improved.

“But the key goal must be maintained, which is to significantly improve knowledge and skill for students now and in the future.”

The Opposition NDP support the Metis Nation of Alberta’s call for a full rewrite.

“Albertans have found bizarre factual errors throughout this curriculum, and choices in priorities that promote European history, art, and religious traditions at the expense of the many other cultures that are fundamental to the lives of Alberta students,” Sarah Hoffman, NDP education critic, said in a statement.

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“The delay and removal of Indigenous content is one of the most egregious examples of this.”

The Confederacy of Treaty No. 6 Chiefs are also concerned with the draft K-6 curriculum.

In a news release, they said they thought it would include a “fulsome and diverse history of this province, including the histories of Treaty First Nations that have existed here since time immemorial.”

Instead, they described what the draft includes as “a Eurocentric, American-focused, Christian-dominant narrative that perpetuates, rather than addresses, systemic racism and falls far short of providing a balanced, nuanced perspective on Treaty 6 First Nations history and culture.”

The Confederacy of Treaty 6 said they were not consulted in this curriculum development.

“What First Nations consultation that did occur was limited in scope, hastily concluded and incomplete,” the news release said.

They are urging the province to “revise the curriculum anew with the informed consent of Treaty No. 6 First Nations.”

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