UCDSB details student impact from continued Indigenous Education

The Upper Canada District School Board says they are creating meaningful and personal land acknowledgments to work with Indigenous partners to identify the traditional territory each school is situated on, as well as implementing rich programming that offers Indigenous students the opportunity to form deeper connections with their own culture and share it with their non-Indigenous peers, as part of their commitment to Truth and Reconciliation.

The impact of the actions being taken within the UCDSB was front and center during the Board of Trustees meeting, held June 7th, as Ward 11 (AMBE) Trustee Patty Francis shared her comments on the Board Action Plan for Indigenous Education (BAPIE).

“As a Mohawk from Akwesasne, through years of Canadian history, I’ve seen how (First Nations, Métis and Inuit) have had to fight for their rights, fight for their recognition and to feel included. Here at Upper Canada, we have all these initiatives. There are so many things that Upper Canada is light years ahead in, in education across Canada. I want to applaud all the leaders in this initiative because it’s beyond heartwarming,” she said with unchecked emotion. “I’ve seen the evolution over the last 40 years, and I tell you, you are going way beyond in addressing all the things that the world and Canada have yet to try to address through the TRC and the UNDRIP, and here at Upper Canada, you are doing it.”

Since 2010, the Ministry of Education has required all school boards to create a BAPIE and to report on the plan annually. The BAPIE is designed to improve opportunities for Indigenous students and to increase knowledge and awareness for all students about Indigenous history, cultures and perspectives.

Within the UCDSB, officials say Indigenous education is more than a unit that classes cover for a portion of the year. The Board explains that Indigenous education is intertwined with almost all subjects, as they strive to build a shared understanding and acceptance of Indigenous perspectives, culture and a clearer understanding of the shared history.

The UCDSB offers multiple avenues for Indigenous and non-Indigenous students to gain deeper knowledge of Indigenous life from past to present, and learn from the experiences lived by others. They list some examples:

iLead: This is a program that the UCDSB provides to First Nations, Métis and Inuit students and their allies to increase their knowledge and connection with Indigenous culture and perspectives.

Interdisciplinary Studies in Indigenous Leadership: This is a credit course for Grade 11 and 12 students who participate in the iLead program that captures the deep knowledge students gain in their iLead experience.

Thompson Island Cultural Camp: This is a three-day eco-cultural camp opportunity on Thompson Island where students connect with cultural advisors, and learn about fishing, storytelling, medicine walks and more. Students earn a World Views and Aspirations of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples in Canada credit on completion.

Mohawk Language Courses: This is the second year the UCDSB has offered a Mohawk language course for credit. The course expanded this year to be offered at more sites virtually and a second-level course was also offered.

Reach Ahead courses: The UCDSB has two summer courses for Grade 8 students from the Akwesasne Mohawk Board of Education who are attending UCDSB’s Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School. Students can choose to take one or both courses during the summer before they enter Grade 9. The courses serve as transition opportunities, as well as counting towards high school credits.

Each UCDSB school has access to a range of cultural advisors they can have in their schools to authentically incorporate Indigenous learning into the curriculum, promote hands-on experiences and lead culturally-relevant activities, either in-person or virtually. These advisors are all funded by the school board.

“Sometimes you have to be part of a marginalized community to understand the impact that it has on children. And when children feel like they belong, they thrive. They are renewed, the kids need a safe place to be who they are and to be accepted. I really appreciate what everyone around this table is doing on behalf of our kids,” added Ward 2 Trustee Carole Dufort during the meeting.

With files by CFRA’s Connor Ray

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