Education for Reconciliation

November 15, 2016
Corinne Sperling, Alberta Education

Alberta government embraces a fundamental shift in education

We want the First Nation, Métis and Inuit people of Alberta to know that we deeply regret the profound harm and damage that occurred to generations of children forced to attend residential schools. While the Province of Alberta did not establish the system, members of the government did not take a stand to stop it. For this silence we apologize.
— Premier Rachel Notley

Alberta Education has committed to supporting the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action to educate all students about the hidden truth of residential schools. As Premier Rachel Notley stated in her formal apology to residential school survivors, “These schools broke the connection between child and family … between community, language and culture. These children too often lost the ability to connect again with their families … losing their identity and the confidence to pass on their traditions to their own children.”

Many residential schools were active for over 100 years, with the final one closing in 1996. The cumulative effect of residential school experiences on First Nations, Métis and Inuit has been profound and their impacts remain today.

We all have a role to play in reconciliation. Education for Reconciliation holds the promise of a fundamental shift in thinking, attitudes and intercultural understanding to create societal change. Education for Reconciliation is a process brought to action by the collective efforts of all Canadians, learning and working together to bring light to the history and significance of residential schools and treaties, as well as First Nations, Métis and Inuit perspectives, experiences and ways of knowing, in historical and contemporary contexts, through kindergarten to Grade 12 curriculum. Addressing this knowledge gap and rebalancing the education of Alberta students by enhancing current and future programs of study are at the heart of Education for Reconciliation.

Education stakeholders are also collaborating to ensure that teachers have the tools they need to advance First Nations, Métis and Inuit history and perspectives in the classroom. This systemic approach and enhancements to curriculum and professional development will serve to enrich the knowledge and understanding of current and future generations of Albertans.

We are on the cusp of a fundamental shift in education. Alberta Education is excited for the opportunities ahead as we move forward to ensure that students are at the heart of curriculum development, that all students are nurtured and supported, and that they see themselves in the learning that they do every day.

Corinne Sperling is the director of Alberta Education’s curriculum branch, First Nations, Métis and Inuit education division.