Students at Prince George Secondary School (PGSS) were asked to list the ‘positive and negative’ impacts colonies had on Indigenous peoples in a grade nine social studies class.
Candace Aksidan, who is Nisga’a and a mother of one of the students in the class, shared her concerns on Tik Tok about how the assignment impacted her son.
“I am fuming,” said Akisdan in the video.
“He was upset with one of the worksheets handed out in his class. What it was ‘list the positive impact of colonies – which is colonization – and the negative impact of colonies. My son is very well aware of colonization and the impacts that it has had on Indigenous people and it breaks my heart and it pisses me off that he felt like he couldn’t speak up.”
This incident comes just days after Trent Derrick, former chair and Valimohamed former vice-chair of School District No. 57's (SD57) Board of Education announced their resignations in the wake of a Special Advisor’s Report that found systemic anti-Indigenous racism and a “substantial culture of fear” within the district.
In February, B.C. Minister of Education Jennifer Whiteside ordered an investigation into governance practices in SD57 and appointed two special advisors to the board and the report was released in late August.
The report also found that Indigenous students are disproportionately held back, placed in alternative programs and removed from the typical graduation path.
Lheidli T’enneh Chief Dolleen Logan was asked about the PGSS incident during a press conference this morning (Sept. 15) regarding the recent resignations and the Special Advisor’s Report.
“I just heard about this maybe 20 minutes ago and I was appalled. Why would somebody put that out there? What’s the positive and negative impacts of colonlialism? There is no positive,” said Logan.
“There is no positive at all and why would you? We are trying to stop racism and this is just feeding it.”
She added that her granddaughter has experienced similar situations at PGSS, and knows that “racism is alive and well” from her experiences attending the former Kelly Road Secondary School.
“It's condoning racism to me and I’m very proud of the person who is standing up. She is doing it as a parent with concerns. This is what we need is the parents to help the kids stand up.”
SD57 has said the intent of the assignment was to spark a conversation about the negative impacts and enduring effects of colonization.
“This is not an issue of curriculum,” said Acting Superintendent Cindy Heitman in a statment, “this is an issue with resources and activities chosen to teach that curriculum.”
School District Assistant Superintendent Kap Manhas said SD57 is deeply sorry for any harm that this has caused to the students, parents, families Indigenous communities.
“This assignment is not a reflection of our teachers or our commitment to truth and reconciliation. We are working through a restorative process with the parents, the teacher, the principal and our resource staff to apply safeguards to ensure this does not happen again,” added Manhas.
“I also realize that saying ‘We’re sorry’ isn’t enough. We need to put action behind those words,” said Heitman.
SD57 says that as part of its Five-Year Strategic plan it is implementing a number of strategies meant to ensure Indigenous voices are heard.
The district says these include:
- Reviewing resources to ensure they are culturally sensitive
- Increasing Elders and Knowledge Holders in schools to support and mentor staff in the education of Residential Schools, Indigenous culture and Indigenous languages
- Reviewing curriculum to indigenize with local content and decolonize to allow academics to be learned through a cultural and inclusive lens
- Providing – and emphasizing – professional learning to staff about Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action and Trauma Informed approaches.
- Developing an Education Council of First Nations leaders, Elders and the K-12 system leaders to discuss education within learning communities. In short ‘Nothing about us without us.'
"Our goal in School District 57 is to continue to decolonize our structures and curriculum, ensuring Indigenous language, culture and perspectives are embedded in everything we do. We are sincerely hoping that we will have Indigenous Leaders in our communities help us with this vital and challenging work," stated the district.
SD57 is also currently working with Special Advisors Kory Wilson and Catherine McGregor and Rod Allen to implement the 45 recommendations aimed to address systemic racism and other governance issues outlined in the report.
The Prince George Board of Education is required to report every two months on its progress until March 31, 2022.