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Systemic racism in Yukon’s education system under review

Undertaking by Yukon First Nation Education Directorate and Yukon Child and Youth Advocate Office
A classroom at Selkirk Elementary School is seen on Oct. 20, 2022. A review that’s underway is anticipated to shed some light on systemic racism in the Yukon education system. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

Melanie Bennett doesn’t expect it to uncover all the answers, but a review of systemic racism in education in the Yukon is crucial for examining and pinpointing the ways a system can “unknowingly discriminate” against some of its students.

During an interview by phone on March 25, Bennett, who is the executive director of the Yukon First Nation Education Directorate, told the News that review is getting underway.

“Our hope is, at the end, it will be a report that will be tabled in the legislative assembly to say these are the necessary changes that need to occur and things that need to be identified,” she said.

“It’s going to take collaborative work. It’s going to take work from the First Nations. It’s going to take work from Yukon Education.”

A March 27 press release from the Yukon Child and Youth Advocate Office and the Yukon First Nation Education Directorate announced the launch of the review, which will look at ways racism is a factor and the impact that racism has on Indigenous students and other students of colour in the territory.

Per the release, the First Nation Education Commission flagged the need for a review and set aside money to conduct it. The commission directed the directorate to do a review and requested that the child and youth advocate’s office offer advocacy for children and youth experiencing discrimination and racism. The Chiefs Committee on Education agreed with the commission’s recommendations, and the Department of Education was officially notified about the review in December 2023.

“There could be not one racist person in that building, but as long as they continue to perpetuate the policies, processes, procedures and some of the legislation that is discriminatory, we need to change them,” Bennett said.

“My hope is that the report will be the tool that will begin that.”

As part of the work, in the coming months, the child and youth advocate’s office and the directorate will visit around the Yukon to hear perspectives of students, families and communities.

An online survey can be accessed through the directorate’s website.

The review will focus on looking at ten years, from 2014 to 2024, but will also consider stories and information beyond the given timeframe.

In the release, Yukon child and youth advocate Annette King said depriving young people of the “right to an inclusive education” can substantially negatively impact mental health and studies.

“Through this review, we want to see a real change in the system that translates into better outcomes for all children and youth,” King said.

Upon completion of the report, it will go to Yukon First Nations and be made public.

The report is expected to be tabled in the Yukon Legislative Assembly in spring 2025.

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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