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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 Jim Iker.     

“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 action.”   

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. 

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For more information, contact Rich Overgaard, BCTF media relations officer, at 604-871-1881 (office) or 604-340-1959 (cell).