After years of work, SD 19’s Aboriginal Education Agreement is signed
By David F. Rooney
After years of hard work, SD 19 and its Aboriginal Education Enhancement Committee finally signed an agreement with the province that commits the district to improving the sometimes troubled relationship native and Metis kids have with the school system.
The document, which was signed on Friday during a ceremony and banquet at Columbia Park Elementary School, outlined the following goals:
Strong relationships are the foundation on which the Enhancement Agreement will succeed; these relationships must be nurtured and sustained through on-going respect and dialogue.
The needs of our Aboriginal students must be continuously assessed and supported on an individual basis.
Aboriginal families are welcomed into a school environment that respects their ancestry and culture, and inspires pride.
Our Aboriginal students are provided with opportunities to learn and lead in the broader community.
Our commitment to continued reflection and review will support a vibrant, living document for present and future generations.
“We envision aboriginal students who are successful and confident,” said SD 19 Superintendent Anne Cooper as she launched the signing ceremony.
Indeed, native and Metis kids are already doing better in the district, according to figures included in the agreement’s working document. In 2003/04 only four of seven graduating aboriginal students at RSS participated in the Blanket/Sash Ceremony, which is a kind of declaration of their identity. That number has risen. In 2005/06 five of five students participated. Since then all identified aboriginal students have participated in the ceremony.
Trish Rosborough of the Ministry of Education said the document is clearly “a symbolic statement of all the work that has been done in the district.”
Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid could not be present for the ceremony and George Abbott, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, also cancelled his attendance.
MacDiarmid did, however, send a letter in which she said this kind of agreement supports “the integration of aboriginal culture in our schools, which is essential to ensuring that each and every child has the best chance for success.”
Marilyn James, long-time advocate for the Sinixt people who have been declared extinct as an identifiable tribe by the federal government, said that despite a history in which native children were forced into white-run schools and robbed of their identity, agreements such as this show that education can benefit native children.
Here are some images from the evening’s event, which also featured a meal catered by La Baguette: