Aspects of what Canadian students are taught about Indian residential schools

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Reclaiming Shingwauk Hall embodies years of collaboration with the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association, Residential School Survivors, and local First Nation communities. The overall design was driven by community input and the project team was in constant communication with Survivors about the ways in which their experience should be presented. Reclaiming Shingwauk Hall is an example of the future of Indigenous driven, decolonized history practice, which embraces community authority. (photo by Dan Gray, Superior Media)

TORONTO — Aspects of what Canadian students are taught about Indian residential schools in the provinces and territories:

Newfoundland: Is looking to explore making the topic of residential schools “more explicit.” The most in-depth examination now occurs in social studies in Grade 7. Higher grades receive some instruction on the topic.

Nova Scotia: Students must learn about residential schools in Grade 8. Learners reflect on 20th and 21st century Indigenous experiences in Canada.

New Brunswick: Has modules for Grades 7-9 on Indigenous topics, including a “robust” one focusing on Indian day and residential schools introduced in 2019.

Prince Edward Island: Students from kindergarten to Grade 12 learn some of the history of residential schools. The Grade 9 social studies human rights unit explores the residential schools’ legacy.

Quebec: Has taught aspects of First Nation history. Its recently revised syllabus includes “greater consideration of the Aboriginal perspective on certain significant events, such as the residential school period.”

Ontario: Revamped its program in 2019 and continues to look at revisions. Compulsory material on residential schools now occurs in history class in Grades 7, 8 and 10.

Manitoba: Students begin to focus on residential schools between grades 9 and 11. The topic comes with a support guide for teachers, developed in response to the apology issued by the Canadian government. Grade 12 students have the choice of an optional course that deals with residential schools among other topics.

Saskatchewan: Students get mandatory treaty education from kindergarten to Grade 12. Residential schools and their lasting effects are addressed directly in existing social sciences courses.

Alberta: Has a single reference to the schools in Grade 10. A proposed program would include the “dark, deplorable part of Canada’s history” and its legacy in every grade of a kindergarten to Grade 6 curriculum. Topics would include disease, malnutrition, and neglect that contributed to thousands of child deaths.

British Columbia: Lessons specific to residential schools and its effects begin in Grade 5. Students in grades 10 and 12 learn about discriminatory policies and injustices in Canada, including residential schools, and the challenges facing Indigenous people, including the legacies of colonialism. The new curriculum was introduced in September 2016 for kindergarten to Grade 12, in 2018 for Grade 10, and in 2019 for grades 11-12.

Nunavut: Has had a required Grade 10 unit on residential schools since 2011. The Department of Education is developing a new social studies plan for younger students that would include events in Inuit history such as the schools and forced relocations.

Northwest Territories: Students start learning about the residential schools in Grade 4. Teachers new to the territory get three days of training on the history and legacy of colonization, with an emphasis on residential schools.

Yukon: A mandatory unit on residential schools is provided in Grade 5 and Grade 10. Course materials aim to increase students’ understanding of the historical context in which residential schools occurred as well as contemporary issues around reconciliation.