Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Around the Arctic July 08, 2013 - 8:31 am

Nunavut premier highlights residential schools at ministers’ meeting

Canada’s education ministers meet in Nunavut for the first time

PETER VARGA
Premier Eva Aariak hosted the 101st meeting of the Council of Ministers of Education Ministers, Canada, which is led by director-general Andrew Parkin, in Iqaluit July 4 and July 5. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)
Premier Eva Aariak hosted the 101st meeting of the Council of Ministers of Education Ministers, Canada, which is led by director-general Andrew Parkin, in Iqaluit July 4 and July 5. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)
Provincial and territorial education representatives at a press conference in Iqaluit at the July 5 close of the 101st meeting of the Council of Education Ministers. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)
Provincial and territorial education representatives at a press conference in Iqaluit at the July 5 close of the 101st meeting of the Council of Education Ministers. (PHOTO BY PETER VARGA)

Canadian education ministers agreed July 5 to include education about residential schools within school curriculums and thanked Nunavut premier Eva Aariak for highlighting the issue during their first meeting in the territory.

“The premier’s presentation on this issue not only moved us, but informed us,” said Brad Duguid, Ontario’s minister for training, colleges and universities.

“It drove us to take action on this, and that may be the single greatest accomplishment of these meetings.”

Adding an account of the history of residential schools within curriculum will allow students across the country to understand how the experience affected parents and grandparents of aboriginal families and communities, which had a “ripple effect” on their children and subsequent generations, Aariak said.

Ensuring all Canadians learn about it will “contribute to the healing process and strengthen the fabric of communities across the country,” she said.

The country’s provincial and territorial ministers of education met in Iqaluit for the 101st meeting of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada, July 4 and 5.

Ministers agreed that Nunavut, home of the largest aboriginal land claims agreement in the country, was a fitting location to make commitments to add aboriginal issues to school curricula.

Aariak, who is also minister of education for the territory, has come to take the leading role in the issue, highlighting it as a priority both in this and last year’s CMEC meeting in Nova Scotia.
Even so, the territory has yet to fully implement its own education act. Aariak said CMEC meetings are a good opportunity for the 14-year-old territory to inform its own decisions on education as it finishes implementing the act.

Evaluating education systems and student assessments is part of the council’s work, and Aariak said the territory is working hard to bring assessment tools into play, given that it launched Nunavut’s education act in 2009.

“We have a long way to go yet in ensuring that our education system is up to par with every jurisdiction, but I think we’re on the right track,” Aariak said.

The council of ministers, not the federal government, represents Canadian education policy internationally, since provinces and territories are responsible for education.

The council’s meetings take place in a different province and territory each year.

This allows ministers to see local education issues first hand, across the country, said Andrew Parkin, director-general for the CMEC.

“For most of us it was our first time in Nunavut, and nothing beats being able to experience things first hand,” he said. “Being here, and having the premier being able to speak to the issues from her perspective really set the tone for the meeting as well.”

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