Teaching about schools’ dark past

The Yukon plans to start teaching students about the history of residential schools, says Education Minister Scott Kent. New curriculum is in the works to be rolled out by the 2013-2014 academic year.

The Yukon plans to start teaching students about the history of residential schools, says Education Minister Scott Kent.

New curriculum is in the works to be rolled out by the 2013-2014 academic year. If that deadline cannot be met, then it will be the following year, added Kent.

On Tuesday, Nunavut and the N.W.T. launched a new, 25-hour, mandatory high school program on the century-long, government-sanctioned regime of forcible assimilation and widespread abuse against aboriginal children.

Back in July, Yukon was invited to partner on this curriculum, to make it a territories-wide initiative, but Kent declined the offer.

By then, the project was already pretty far along, he said. So the department thought it would be better “to monitor the implementation of the pilot and participate in its review so that we can determine the best course for future programming in the Yukon,” he said.

Efforts have started to ensure Yukon’s curriculum focuses on local experiences, added Kent. Details about the curriculum and the grades in which it will be taught have not yet been decided.

The N.W.T. and Nunavut programs have 12 activities built around interviews with former residential school students and national news events, such as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s apology to former students in 2008.

First Nation partners in Yukon are ready to go, said Kent. The Tr’ondek Hwech’in has already asked department staff to work with them, using the resources they’ve already acquired to locally educate residents and visitors, he said.

Kent has some ideas of his own, too.

The minister wants to see elements of positive First Nations’ history incorporated into the territory’s curriculum as well, he said. That includes aboriginal involvement in the gold rush, signing of land claims and self-government agreements and Elijah Smith’s historic trek to Ottawa with “Together Today for our Children Tomorrow” nearly 40 years ago.

The Education Department’s goal is to boost local programming to 20 per cent of what’s taught in Yukon’s community schools.

All communities are at different levels of achieving that 20 per cent, but the department continues to support local First Nations and communities in bring that programming together, said Kent.