Nanaimo school trustees discussed next steps for reconciliation at a recent education meeting. NEWS BULLETIN file

Nanaimo school district trustees explore next steps on reconciliation

Speaking with First Nations partners about reconciliation common theme in discussion

Nanaimo school district needs to know what reconciliation looks like to First Nations people, says trustee Jamie Brennan.

“How will we be sure that we’ve done the necessary things, made necessary changes to gain your trust, to be responsible for your children – that is a huge area,” he said. “That’s one we’re finding now, many First Nations are abandoning the public school system, setting up their own schools on reserve or we’re seeing the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre, a sort of urban-based First Nations education.

“If we don’t very soon regain that trust there won’t be any First Nations students in our schools.”

Nanaimo trustees shared reflections and ideas for next steps on reconciliation within the school system during an education meeting Wednesday, Nov. 1.

School trustees took part in a blanket exercise in August where they learned about colonization and role-played a time in history for Canada’s aboriginal people and last month, they heard the experiences of witnesses of that exercise.

Anne Tenning, district vice-principal of aboriginal education, told the News Bulletin that ultimately the goal is to come up with a working definition of reconciliation that works in the context of the school district. While there had been an idea to get that definition done earlier, the decision was made to slow the process.

“We don’t go straight to reconciliation,” said Tenning. “You start with truth, which was the blanket exercise, the powerful learning, hearing from the community and allowing that to inform the reconciliation goal and a working definition of reconciliation.”

A dominant theme among the board last week was the need to speak with First Nations partners about reconciliation.

Tania Brzovic, trustee, said there’s a part of her that says it doesn’t matter what she thinks reconciliation means, what matters is what it means to the people who have been the victims of hundreds of years of racism.

“For me, it’s a question of finding a respectful, safe way of asking kids, of asking parents, how do we make our schools better? How do we make this a place you feel as much valued as a much an equitable, equal part of our schools as people who are not indigenous,” she said. “I don’t know what that looks like yet.”

Trustee Steve Rae said he wants to ask First Nations partners how far they think the district has come, if they’ve come anywhere at all, and what they feel next steps should be “because this is something that we need to do together” while Bill Robinson, trustee, said he thinks with aboriginal students it’s important to focus on building pride, language and culture that lead to a growing self-confidence and a positive vision of where they can go.

Brennan said if the board wants reconciliation, it has to meet face-to-face and find out what the steps it has to take look like, suggesting there could be formal means of reconciling, like a feast, or informal with the use of elders or visiting reserves as a board to meet on a regular basis and find out what’s happening, if there are issues of concern and how those could be addressed.

“I see this as being ongoing and not resolved in the short term, but through a lot of energy and a lot of commitment and trust because that I think is lacking in some areas,” he said.

One thing that came to mind for Natasha Bob, acting chairwoman of the education meeting, was a focus on success rates, trying to address concerns and changing the trajectory of aboriginal learners, realizing challenges they face in their communities, like social isolation and transportation barriers.

She also said for every wrong doing within a First Nation culture or community, there would be a ceremony to wash away the shame.

“I like your idea about talking to our community members and getting an idea from them on what that would look like, how they’d like like to see that,” she said of the idea for a feast. “It could be a symbolic learning opportunity for our school district and our community.”



news@nanaimobulletin.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Chemainus Theatre promises next year will be a record-breaker

Mama Mia one of three blockbuster shows theatre brass expect to draw big audiences

Ladysmith Interact club students inspired and inspiring

Ladysmith Secondary School group making a difference in their community

Driver unharmed in high-speed rollover crash on Trans-Canada Highway

Jeep and minivan involved in collision near Nanaimo River Road

IIO doesn’t recommend charges after motorcyclist death in Mill Bay

An off-duty VicPD officer was involved in the crash

New wind warning for most of Vancouver Island

Forecasters are calling for strong winds up to 90km/h for some areas

Trudeau to make it harder for future PM to reverse Senate reforms

Of the 105 current senators, 54 are now independents who have banded together in Independent Senators’ Group

Boeser has 2 points as Canucks ground Flyers 5-1

WATCH: Vancouver has little trouble with slumping Philly side

Man dies after falling from B.C. bridge

Intoxicated man climbed railing, lost his balance and fell into the water below

B.C. animation team the ‘heart’ of new ‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’

The animators, largely based in Vancouver, ultimately came up with a creative technique that is drawing praise

Light at the end of the tunnel for UN climate talks

Meeting in Katowice was meant to finalize how countries report their emissions of greenhouses gases

Janet Jackson, Def Leppard, Nicks join Rock Hall of Fame

Radiohead, the Cure, Roxy Music and the Zombies will also be ushered in at the 34th induction ceremony

Supreme Court affirms privacy rights for Canadians who share a computer

Section 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects Canadians against unreasonable search and seizure

‘I practically begged’: Kootenay woman with breast cancer denied referral to Calgary

Breast cancer patient left to fight disease alone after being denied referral to Calgary

21 detained before Paris protests as police deploy in force

There was a strong police presence outside the central Saint Lazare train station, where police in riot gear checked bags

Most Read