In recent months British Columbia’s and Canada’s First Nations communities have raised awareness through the Truth and Reconciliation movement to find a positive path forward for aboriginal people in Canada. At the end of September, District students, parents and staff participated in the Walk for Reconciliation with 70,000 other concerned citizens according to the Province newspaper.
Reconciliation Canada aspires, “To promote reconciliation by engaging Canadians in dialogue that revitalizes the relationships between Aboriginal peoples and all Canadians in order to build resilience.” It is a vision we share. To learn more about Reconciliation Canada click here.
Over 700 students have self-identified as Aboriginal in Burnaby schools and our goal is to continue to support each of them in the best way possible. Currently the District is engaged in a process that will see a revitalization of the District’s Aboriginal Enhancement Agreement. District Vice-Principal, Brandon Curr, describes the work in the following statements:
“Over the course of this school year we will embark on a journey to renew our Aboriginal Enhancement Agreement. Through community gatherings, online surveys and staff dialogue sessions, the new agreement will increase the focus across the District wide on Aboriginal student achievement for this year and many more to come.”
As educators and partners in education, we have a moral obligation to ensure that our Aboriginal students are succeeding at comparable rates to our Non-Aboriginal students. A strong foundation has been laid in the Burnaby School District, but much work lies ahead to ensure we continue to make gains in terms of Aboriginal student achievement. Since 2011, We have made progress improving our graduation rate by 20%. This is great but are still far below our Non-Aboriginal six-year completion rate of 87%. This large achievement gap can only be closed through collective action and shared responsibility from all educational partners. Much like the process of Reconciliation, renewing our Enhancement Agreement provides us with the perfect opportunity to re-engage all parents, teachers, support staff, administrators and senior management in dialogue focused on Aboriginal student achievement.
As a District team, we will work to build relationships between all stakeholders, build understanding and awareness within the District, as well as inquire and reflect upon what is truly working for our Aboriginal students. We will be better off not only as a District, but as a society once Aboriginal students are succeeding at comparable rates to their peers.”
The Burnaby School District Enhancement Agreement will provide us with the framework from which to move toward this vision. I invite you to take the time to engage with our Aboriginal Enhancement Agreement conversations in order to help make this vision a reality. Dates for future meetings will be posted on our District website.
The University of Winnipeg’s Director of Indigenous Inclusion, Wab Kinew was correct when he stated that “education is the only hope to build a country where people from all cultures around the world can live in harmony together.”