Apologies, school curriculum redesign under recommendations in First Light’s Reconciliation Report
A new community plan by indigenous coalition First Voice lists 42 recommendations addressed to St. John’s and Newfoundland and Labrador as a roadmap for reconciliation.
First Voice released the plan, titled Our Shared Vision: A Path Toward Truth and Reconciliation, in St. John’s at a public event in the city on Thursday.
“It took three years to do this,” said Stacey Howse, executive director of indigenous nonprofit First Light, First Voice’s lead partner.
“This is fully driven and led by the urban Indigenous community and we wanted to hear what issues you wanted to focus on towards reconciliation. From this we have developed a number of priority areas.”
Each call for change is mapped to one of four specific areas:
education, training and employment.
housing and homelessness.
infrastructure and service delivery.
justice and human rights.
One of the more important recommendations is a redesign of the 12th grade kindergarten curriculum to include indigenous stories, culture, stories and language, and discussion of the legacy of colonialism. According to First Light, the process must be carried out in collaboration with all Indigenous groups in the province, including Indigenous people in the cities.
The plan also calls for an apology from the provincial government for the harm it has caused by not including the indigenous people in the Union Terms of Newfoundland and Labrador because they joined the Confederacy in 1949.
“Such an apology must be worked out in full cooperation with all Indigenous groups in the province, including urban Aborigines, and should become a basis for building a renewed relationship between the government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Indigenous peoples in the province,” it says in the plan. Work on the plan began three years ago when First Voice assembled its urban Indigenous coalition to plan for its future.
Howse said the plan is a guide for a community where the inherent rights of indigenous people are actively supported and respected.
Charlotte Winters-Fost, an Inuk elder who co-founded First Light in 1983—when it was still known as St. John’s Native Friendship Center—agreed.
“We have come a long way. I would like to see many of these [government] Departments and service programs have been decolonized, with their programs aligned more with an Indigenous-oriented lens,” Winters-Fost said.
“These kinds of discriminatory actions and behaviors by people still exist today. I think the Friendship Center and this movement is there to make the general population aware of who we are and make us feel proud. It’s not easy being an aboriginal person who comes to a bigger city and feels the effects.”
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