Yukon parents vote on proposed First Nations school board – National


Parents in eight Yukon schools are voting on a proposal that could put control of their children’s education in the hands of the territory’s Indigenous bands, the result of an effort that an official says began nearly 50 years old.

Parents vote on proposal to create a First Nations school board with the power to hire staff, review and modify school plans and request that an education program be offered in a language native.

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Melanie Bennett, executive director of the First Nations Education Branch, said the pressure to establish a First Nations school board in the territory dates back to 1973.

Bennett, who is from the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation of Dawson City, said the council would offer a chance to improve a system that left Indigenous children behind and provide education from an Indigenous perspective and not native.

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“This is a model of reconciliation and in order to do that you have to provide a platform where both worldviews are recognized,” she said.

The branch is an independent body created in 2020 to help First Nations take more control over education.

The school board would be unique because it would involve multiple First Nations across the land instead of a single band on a reserve taking responsibility for education, Bennett added.

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A framework agreement for the proposed school board was signed in June between the Department of Education and 10 of the 14 Yukon First Nations. It aimed to improve the education of Indigenous students and provide them with a culturally appropriate education.

Approximately 23% of the territory’s public school students in 2018-19 identified themselves as Yukon First Nations.

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In a 2019 report, the territory’s auditor general said Indigenous children routinely lack educational supports to help them succeed in school and graduate. The Yukon has also failed to adequately reflect First Nations culture and languages ​​in the classroom, according to the report.

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An Indigenous school board would go a long way in resolving these issues, Bennett said.

“You need to tackle the racism of low expectations that occurs with Indigenous students,” she said, adding that research has found that 80% of Indigenous children in kindergarten need extra help with their education. homework.

The eight schools will hold separate votes on whether or not to approve the creation of the board. If more than 50 percent of a school’s parents vote in favor, the board would run that school.

If approved, an election will be held in March for the five directors on the board. Schools run by the new board would not be exclusively for Indigenous students and any child could enroll.

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Vuntut Gwichin leader Dana Tizya-Tramm, who is also chairman of a chiefs committee on education, said the importance of the proposal cannot be underestimated.

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“This is an opportunity to allow innovation to break down the walls of pre-existing education systems,” he said. “It will not negatively affect non-native students. “

The committee was created a few years ago to improve the educational outcomes of aboriginal children and youth.

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Tizya-Tramm said the council would also help build common ground between Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups.

Lauren Wallingham, whose child attends one of the schools where the vote on the proposed board takes place, said she believes it would be beneficial for all students to have an Indigenous perspective taught.

“It’s going to be huge to have this incorporated in a real way, not just as an add-on,” she said.

Wallingham, who is Indigenous, was part of a group that called on parents to participate in the referendum at Takhini Elementary School in Whitehorse.

She said most of the parents she spoke to were open to a referendum after being explained by the school board.

The vote will run until Jan. 27, but whatever the outcome, Bennett said she hopes the process inspires others across the country.

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“At first, it’s extremely positive,” she said.

© 2022 The Canadian Press


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