Dear SD43 families,
On Friday, September 30th we will observe National Truth and Reconciliation Day in School District 43 and flags in our district will be flown at half-mast in a symbol of mourning and respect. Though this day will be a non-instructional day in schools, this is a time to pause and reflect on the historical impacts of Indian Residential Schools and the ongoing relationships we share with the Indigenous Peoples of Canada (First Nations, Inuit, and Métis).
In late September, students and staff in schools wear orange shirts in a show of support for victims and survivors of the residential school system and take this time to learn more in age-appropriate discussions, lessons, and activities. Orange Shirt Day began as a movement created by Phyllis Webstad to acknowledge when her clothes, including a nice new orange shirt – a gift from her grandmother – were taken away on her first day at St. Joseph's Mission residential school in BC's interior. September is a painful time for many survivors and a reminder of a time when thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their families and forced to attend residential schools. Children were not allowed to speak their traditional languages and were punished if they did. Generations of children had their human rights violated simply for being Indigenous. This is why it is so important to continue to discuss Indigenous and Canadian history and further our commitment to reconciliation. In 2015 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) published its 94 Calls to Action, and there is still much to be done. The provincial government passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (Declaration Act) into law in November 2019. The Declaration Act Action Plan, released March 30, 2022, includes collectively identified goals and outcomes that form the long-term vision for implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Province's framework for reconciliation in BC. These tangible and measurable steps will advance reconciliation efforts.
One outcome of the report detailing the 94 calls to action was the identification of key areas including education, child welfare, health, justice, language, and culture. Action in the education sector includes direction that, effective in the 2023/24 school year, all students working toward a BC Certificate of Graduation (“Dogwood Diploma"), in either English or French, must successfully complete at least 4 credits in Indigenous-focused coursework. Details of these new course offerings are being finalized now and will be available soon to current secondary students in BC schools.
Our hope lies in the children and our community that continues to learn, grow, and implement change. Education is the key to making positive steps forward and learn from the mistakes of the past.