First Nations in B.C. work towards ending racism in the education system

Two First Nations in northern British Columbia have formed what they’re calling an Indigenous Education Leadership Table.

The committee was set up after a provincial report confirmed what McLeod Lake Indian Band and Lheidli T’enneh First Nation have known for years – that systemic racism exists in the education system.

“This new table is hopefully going to raise awareness about Indigenous values, Indigenous protocols, Indigenous ways of knowing, and it will give an opportunity for us to define a new relationship with the school district,” says Jayde Chingee, deputy chief of McLeod Lake.

According to the report, which came with 40 recommendations, the school board in Prince George is behind the times.

“Unfortunately, we heard many examples of behaviours and practises that are clearly discriminatory and systemically racist,” says the report.

“It is important that systems and structures are put in place to ensure there is no room for racism and discrimination, in any form, in the district. SD 57 (School District 57 Prince George) is behind in best practices not only identified by leading researchers but by the best practices in other school districts.

“All students in the district have the right to attend school from Kindergarten to grade 12 with their same age cohort. If a student requires additional support, for whatever reason, this support must be provided in a way that allows the student to remain in regular classrooms.”

According to the school district in Prince George, 30 per cent of the students in class are First Nations.

The two communities are hoping to work with the school board to improve graduation rates and the overall educational experience in the future.

“What the Indigenous Education Leadership Table has to offer for the school district with a more hands-on approach with direct leadership because our nations have always played a role in the school district, but it was always an advisory capacity where this will be more of a leadership and hands on to support our students,” says Joshua Seymour, councillor with Lheidli T’enneh First Nation.

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