For the past two years I have had the honour to serve as the chair of EPSB’s policy review committee. By far, the biggest piece of policy review that we undertook as committee has been the rewrite of the board’s First Nations, Metis, Inuit Education policy. From the start, we knew that we had to involve the community we serve in a meaningful way. For the committee that meant two rounds of consultations, two online surveys, extensive meetings with food, childcare and facing difficult conversations about the role education has played in the colonization and harmful impacts of residential schools in the lives of indigenous peoples.
Here’s the old policy, written before the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and before the publication of the calls to action.
As you can see there’s a lot of changes, with particular emphasis on language rooted in the present, affirming that treaties are living documents, the addition of key definitions such as reconciliation and protocol. As well, recognition of the harm caused by systemic racism and the fact that EPSB is located on Treaty 6 territory and that we are all treaty people.
I am deeply humbled by the stories that were shared with me and with our committee during consultations on this policy. I acknowledge that it is not easy to ask people to come forward and share stories and provide advice on a “system” that caused great harm to so many generations.
As a member of the policy review committee, I feel an enormous sense of gratitude to be part of this conversation at this point in Edmonton public’s history and at a time when reconciliation and how we can work towards implementing the calls to action from the truth and reconciliation commission are being talked about.
Edmonton Public can and must do better in working with and supporting our First Nations, Metis and Inuit families and students. I believe this policy is a step towards supporting those students and families while also acknowledging that by including First Nations, Metis and Inuit perspectives and knowledge all students will benefit.
Through this policy journey I also learned some new Cree words and was reminded of the Inuktitut and Dene I learned while working for CBC in Nunavut and the Yukon. And so, in conclusion: Hai Hai, Mahsi Cho, Nakurmiik, Marsee, Thank you to all those who have made this policy what it is today.