LETTERS: Time for all of us to step up to truth and reconciliation

MSS brawl is a signpost pointing in the direction of truth and reconciliation

To the Expositor:

We all need to step up.

The Rainbow District School Board (RDSB), its nine board committees, the Student Senate as well as the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association have only one First Nation member. There is one student trustee with no delegate from the First Nation community.

The MSS website indicates two courses, neither compulsory, “Ojibway Language” and “Expressing Aboriginal Cultures” relative to Ojibwe education here in our region. Manitoulin Secondary School has a large proportion of Ojibwe students, roughly 38 percent.

The Safe and Accepting Schools Act, 2012 (Bill 13) governs a new direction in our institutes. “A Better Way Forward,” Ontario’s three-year anti-racism strategic plan targets systemic racism by building an anti-racism approach into the way government develops policies, makes decisions, evaluates programs and monitors outcomes. It calls for a proactive, collaborative effort from all government ministries and community partners to work toward racial equity in our schools. This coincides clearly with the directives of the First Nations Advisory Council (FNAC).

The FNAC determines relevant educational programs and services for students of First Nations ancestry. Another aim of FNAC is to increase all and I emphasize all students’ knowledge, awareness, understanding, and appreciation of First Nations people and their history and culture. Do teachers and students at this high school ever participate in programs at the nearby Ojibwe Cultural Foundation, for instance? Do academic courses at MSS reflect the rich culture and heritage of First Nations here?

Additionally, the FNAC is to educate all RDSB, administration and staff to better understand and gain knowledge of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples. Is this happening? What guarantees do we have that Bill 13 or the recommendations of the FNAC are being adhered to?

The brawl at MSS with undertones of racial conflict is a signpost that points in the direction of truth and the journey toward reconciliation. Let’s use existing legislation and advisory councils to take the high road.

Jane Woodbury

South Baymouth