Sakatay Global is disheartened to hear of the decision by the Ontario government to cancel summer curriculum-writing sessions focused on Indigenous histories and cultures. Last month, two week-long Truth and Reconciliation Commission writing sessions were cancelled last minute by the Ministry of Education. Elders and Indigenous educators, many of whom were travelling a far distance to be in Toronto to revise the curriculum, were contacted Friday afternoon saying the sessions set to begin on Monday morning were cancelled. The Ministry of Education cited austerity measures for the reason behind the cancellation; a statement released by the office of Education Minister Lisa Thompson read, “In keeping with the commitment Premier Doug Ford made to run government more efficiently, all ministries will seek to carry out initiatives in the most cost-effective way possible.”
This move by the Ontario government is detrimental to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people across the province. Canadians have been denied the opportunity to learn about our shared history, which has led to the perpetuation of stereotypes and racism, and an overall climate of misunderstanding and distrust. In our work, we hear from Canadians who were never taught the history and legacy of the Indian Residential Schools and as a result, have lived their entire lives without a clear understanding of how and why relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities in Canada are strained. In order to move forward in our reconciliation journeys, Sakatay Global believes we must first know the truth and that education will lead to reconciliation.
Indigenous leaders and educators from across Ontario have expressed their concern and outrage at the new Ontario government. Shy-Anne Bartlett, an Indigenous educator, noted, “The old education system did a lot of cultural misappropriation, this was our chance and our opportunity to bring to the table something that was authentic and real, teaching our children the accurate histories of Canada.” AFN National Chief Perry Bellegarde said in a statement that, “Ontario committed to working with Indigenous partners to address the legacy of residential schools… Premier Doug Ford needs to tell us how his government plans to deliver on the TRC Calls to Action.” Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox, who holds the education portfolio, has said, “This is a step backwards on our journey towards reconciliation.”