VANCOUVER – As part of its ongoing efforts to raise awareness and
understanding of the legacy of residential schools, including the effects and intergenerational
impacts on First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples, the BC Teachers’ Federation
established a $100,000 grant program to help teachers from all over BC
participate in this week’s national Truth and Reconciliation events in Vancouver, said BCTF President
“BC teachers are committed to teaching the
true history of residential schools and commemorating the lives of the
thousands of Indigenous children who suffered many forms of abuse and even died
as a result of the residential school experience,” said Iker. “As teachers, we
fully support the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s efforts and are
continuing to work toward building new relationships between Aboriginal and
non-Aboriginal people based on mutual understanding, respect, and collective
Iker explained that the grant
program was made available to all of the BCTF’s local unions to help cover the
costs of teachers travelling to Vancouver to be part of the National Truth and
Reconciliation events, including the education day on Thursday, September 19. Over
4,200 students and more than 200 teachers and support staff are expected to participate
in Thursday’s Education Day.
“By bringing teachers down to Vancouver to participate in the truth and
reconciliation events, our members will be able to return to their home
communities with a deeper understanding of the legacy of residential schools,” said
Iker. “Those teachers will then be able to work within their communities to
build new relationships and pass on their knowledge to help other teachers and
students address this tragic chapter in Canadian history.
“The BCTF’s support of the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission is just one aspect of our long-standing commitment to promote an
education for decolonization in the interest of, not only, the Aboriginal children we teach, but all
children. The BCTF is working to bring about positive change through Aboriginal
education enhancement agreements, employment equity for Aboriginal teachers,
and various anti-racism programs,” Iker said. “In addition, we’ve been pushing
for changes to the provincial curriculum so that all students learn about the
history of residential schools, a topic that has deliberately been obscured. It
is in all of our interests that BC kids encounter Aboriginal history, culture,
and understandings across the K–12 curriculum.”
Iker added that new BCTF initiatives are
already making a difference across the province. For example, a new workshop—The Legacy of Residential Schools – will
help teachers prepare lessons across a variety of grade levels and build
relationships between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students and communities.
BC teachers have also led the way on a special initiative called the Project of Heart which brings
residential school survivors into the classroom to share their personal stories.
After hearing first-hand from survivors about their experiences, students designed
small wooden tiles with images or words inspired by what they learned. Many of
the thousands of tiles created were used to adorn a hand-carved cedar canoe
that will be unveiled at the Truth and Reconciliation events. Across Canada, BC
has had the highest rate of participation in this important project, with more
than 250 schools involved.
“British Columbians should be very proud of the work teachers and
students are doing to acknowledge and commemorate the past, take action in the
present, and make positive change for our future,” said Iker.
For a full program of the TRC National events in Vancouver, click here.