THUNDER BAY – The relationship between the new Ontario Government under Premier Doug Ford and the Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) appears off to a rough start.
Responding to reports that summer sessions to develop education curriculum on the Indian Residential Schools have been cancelled on very short notice, Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox has expressed grave concern with Ontario’s new government.
“Truth-sharing and education on the Indian Residential School experience are one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. We have heard from many educators, Elders, and knowledge keepers and share their frustration as this important work was dropped just before it was set to begin,” said Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox, who holds the education portfolio. “This is a step backwards on our journey towards reconciliation. The education of the youth in Ontario shouldn’t be dictated by the party in power, but left to professionals who acknowledge that identity- building is the only positive move forward.”
As first reported on NNL, notice was sent to members of the TRC Summer Writing Team on Friday afternoon that the summer 2018 curriculum writing sessions were canceled, including TRC summer writing sessions July 9-12 and July 17-20. Participants were directed to cancel travel and hotel arrangements immediately.
NAN states that “Elders and knowledge keepers, many of whom are Residential School survivors, have made personal investments in this work. Some will now lose income as they have booked time away from employment and other activities in order to participate”.
Decision Made by Ministry not Minister – Ford Government
A spokesperson for Minister Thompson responded to inquiries from NetNewsLedger stating, “The Ministry of Education will continue to move ahead with the updated Truth and Reconciliation Commission curriculum revisions. The ministry will work with experts, elders and indigenous communities to develop the support materials for the updated curriculum.
“The Ministry of Education canceled 3 writing sessions: Truth and Reconciliation Commission curriculum revisions, American Sign Language, Indigenous Languages in Kindergarten. The Ministry moved ahead with the cancelation unilaterally, with no direction from the Minister of Education.
“In keeping with the commitment Premier, Doug Ford made to run government more efficiently, all ministries will seek to carry out initiatives in the most cost-effective way possible.”
“This TRC project enhanced Ontario’s education curriculum with school boards working with Indigenous community partners to provide opportunities for teachers and students to learn about our shared history,” continued Fox. “We are asking this government to reaffirm its commitment to The Journey Together: Ontario’s Commitment to Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples where the province committed to working with Indigenous partners to address the legacy of residential schools, close gaps and remove barriers, support Indigenous cultures, and reconcile relationships.”
NAN states that “The new Ontario government signaled that improving relations with Indigenous Peoples is not a priority when it stripped the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation of a dedicated minister in June. Responsibility for the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs was given to Kenora-Rainy River MPP Greg Rickford, who is also the Minister of Energy, Northern Development and Mines.”
Minister Rickford has stated to NetNewsLedger that he has long-standing ties with the north, and with Indigenous communities and leaders. “I am proud of my previous work with Indigenous communities and I am proud to represent so many Indigenous people in my constituency.
“Despite the media’s spin, the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs was not folded into another Ministry and it is filled with highly capable and qualified staff who will continue to serve Indigenous communities at the highest levels.
“Indigenous people across the province will have my utmost dedication as we strive to strengthen relationships, improve quality of life and expand economic opportunity for them and their communities.”