The Ontario government announced on Wednesday the curriculum for Grades 1 through 3 will be revised to include First Nations, Metis, and Inuit education as well as the history of the residential school system.
The fully revised curriculum is set to be complete by September 2023 and will be done in partnership with Indigenous partners “to reflect meaningful collaboration while recognizing the urgency of this content in learning,” a statement from the government read Wednesday.
The news comes a day before Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Thursday.
Joanne Meyer, the chief operating officer of the Metis Nation of Ontario, said the announcement would bring the province’s curriculum in line with recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“This would ensure that age-appropriate mandatory curriculum content pertaining to residential schools, treaties and the lives of First Nations, Metis and Inuit Peoples is made available to all students,” she said.
Included in the curriculum will be the following:
- The role of family and resilience in First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities and nations
- First Nations, Métis and Inuit historical and contemporary realities
- Indigenous peoples’ interrelationship and connection with the land
- The residential school system and the reclamation and revitalization of identity, language, culture and community connections.
The government also announced just over $23 million for Indigenous Education as part of a “broader government commitment to reconciliation.”
“We are committed to recognizing the contributions of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit individuals, communities and nations to our province and country while learning their histories and cultures,” said Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce.
“Including Indigenous content and voices in Ontario’s curriculum – along with mandatory learning on residential schools – is a meaningful way that we can address issues of racism, Indigenous student well-being and advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.”
The province introduced mandatory Indigenous studies for Grades 4 to 6, and history classes for Grades 7, 8 and 10, as well as learning about residential schools in Grades 8 and 10 in 2018.
However, that same year, the Progressive Conservatives also abruptly cancelled curriculum revision sessions with Indigenous leaders which would have seen more in-depth learning of First Nation, Metis and Inuit culture, perspectives and contributions in school.
While the federal government has said Sept. 30 will be a statutory holiday in honour of the lost children and survivors of residential schools, Ontario has not made it a provincial statutory holiday.
Lecce said it’s critical for the province’s two million children to be in school learning about Indigenous history and reconciliation.
“We have an opportunity to change the hearts and minds of young people, to inspire them, but also to create the awareness that I think every citizen must have and by working tomorrow, building it in to our school system on the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation and strengthening our curriculum overall … I think we can pursue a commitment to reconciliation in a much more meaningful way,” he said.
The Indian Residential Schools Crisis Line (1-866-925-4419) is available 24 hours a day for anyone experiencing pain or distress as a result of their residential school experience.
—With files from The Canadian Press