The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action

According to Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, education provides one of the greatest hopes for repairing cultural attitudes, redressing the legacy of Indian Residential Schools, and advancing the process of reconciliation.

In an interview with the Toronto Star, Justice Sinclair talked about the importance of teaching a “balanced” version of Canadian history — one that recognizes and celebrates the contributions of First Nations.

Here are the ‘calls to action’ on education and reconciliation from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (numbers are as they appear in the report):

Education and Reconciliation

  1. We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, in consultation and collaboration with Survivors, Aboriginal peoples, and educators, to:
    • Make age-appropriate curriculum on residential schools, Treaties, and Aboriginal peoples’ historical and contemporary contributions to Canada a mandatory education requirement for Kindergarten to Grade Twelve students.
    • Provide the necessary funding to post-secondary institutions to educate teachers on how to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into classrooms.
    • Provide the necessary funding to Aboriginal schools to utilize Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods in classrooms.
    • Establish senior-level positions in government at the assistant deputy minister level or higher dedicated to Aboriginal content in education.
  2. We call upon the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada to maintain an annual commitment to Aboriginal education issues, including:
    • Developing and implementing Kindergarten to Grade Twelve curriculum and learning resources on Aboriginal peoples in Canadian history, and the history and legacy of residential schools.
    • Sharing information and best practices on teaching curriculum related to residential schools and Aboriginal history.
    • Building student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy, and mutual respect.
    • Identifying teacher-training needs relating to the above.
  3. We call upon all levels of government that provide public funds to denominational schools to require such schools to provide an education on comparative religious studies, which must include a segment on Aboriginal spiritual beliefs and practices developed in collaboration with Aboriginal Elders.
  4. We call upon the federal government, through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, post-secondary institutions and educators, and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and its partner institutions, to establish a national research program with multi-year funding to advance understanding of reconciliation.

Findings from People for Education’s Annual Report:

People for Education has been keeping track of Aboriginal education in Ontario schools since 2012, and results from the 2015 report show progress in a number of areas:

  • the majority of school boards now have First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) advisory councils and action plans for work with FNMI students and communities, and
  • the province’s student success reengagement strategies have resulted in more than 1000 FNMI students returning to school after dropping out.

The 2015 report also raises a number of concerns:

  • Only 69% of secondary and 39% of elementary schools offer Aboriginal education opportunities.
  • Despite an identified gap in teachers’ knowledge and confidence teaching First Nations, Métis and Inuit subject matter, only 29% of elementary schools and 47% of secondary schools offer professional development on Aboriginal issues.
  • Though 96% of Ontario secondary schools and 92% of elementary schools have FNMI students enrolled, only 31% of secondary and 13% of elementary schools offer cultural support programs.
  • Elementary schools with higher proportions of FNMI students are less likely to have teacher-librarians or specialist music or Health and Physical Education teachers.

To read the full 2015 report, click here.