Ontario teachers need more training on aboriginal issues, report says
A vigil is held on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, March 5, 2014, for Loretta Saunders and to call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered aboriginal women. (The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick)
Liam Casey, The Canadian Press
Published Monday, June 8, 2015 1:36PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, August 13, 2015 4:52PM EDT
TORONTO -- Public school teachers in Ontario are not receiving enough training on aboriginal issues, according to a new report released Monday.
Only 29 per cent of elementary schools and 47 per cent of secondary schools offer training on aboriginal issues to teachers, said the report by People for Education, a research and advocacy group.
Annie Kidder, the group's executive director, has called on the provincial government to implement immediate changes to add more professional development for teachers about issues facing aboriginals in Canada.
It comes one week after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called on provincial governments to ensure all students are taught about the history and current plight of First Nations, Metis and Inuit.
The commission's report last week followed a six-year study of Canada's residential schools that concluded the system was a "cultural genocide" that led to the deaths of more than 6,000 children.
"Reconciliation has to happen with everybody," Kidder said. "And education is key to making that happen."
The report shows that 96 per cent of Ontario secondary schools and 92 per cent of elementary schools have aboriginal students.
That means that public school teachers play an important role in delivering information about aboriginals, Kidder said.
"There is an ambitious curriculum and an ambitious policy in the province, but when we look at what's actually happening in schools, all kids aren't necessarily getting educated on aboriginal issues all the way from kindergarten through to Grade 12," Kidder said.
"Teachers for the most part say they are not comfortable teaching indigenous culture and issues."
Kidder said there has been improvement in the area, with 69 per cent of secondary schools offering students or staff aboriginal education opportunities, compared to 61 per cent last year.
The majority of elementary schools in the province, however, do not offer any aboriginal education opportunities, according to the report.
The People for Education report is based on survey responses from nearly 1,200 school principals in Ontario.