• Media Releases
September 20, 2021

The Legacy of Residential Schools And Alberta’s New School Curriculum

A poll by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, the Assembly of First Nations, and Abacus Data indicates that 62 percent of Albertans want the provincial government to increase Indigenous history in the school curriculum.

EDMONTON, June 24, 2021—Nearly half of Albertans admit that they know very little about Canada’s residential school system in the face of growing criticism about the province’s newly proposed school curriculum, according to a recently-released national poll conducted by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF), the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and Abacus Data.  In the same survey, nearly one in five Albertans say they know nothing about the residential school system at all.

“The most difficult thing to watch in our communities is the continuous effects of residential schools,” said Iitoomsaokaa’sii Diandra Bruised Head of the Kainai Blood Tribe Council.  “It’s isolating knowing that the majority of Albertans, for whatever reason, did not know of these horrible institutions. This lack of education has led to some extremely negative perceptions of First Nations people.”

The criticism of the new Alberta school curriculum from teachers’ associations and education experts centers around its focus on ‘Eurocentric’ syllabi that emphasize events like the ‘fall of Rome’ and analysis of European artists like Picasso and Monet.  However, the new curriculum fails to put a critical lens on Canada’s colonial past and does not underscore the cultural and historical contributions of the many racialized and immigrant communities in the country.  This is particularly evident in the lack of detail included in the curriculum about the legacy of residential schools—of which Alberta was home to at least 25.

The national residential school survey released last week and the discovery of the human remains of 215 Indigenous children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School last month, has exposed alarming gaps in knowledge among Canadians as it pertains to Canada’s treatment of Indigenous peoples.  While seven out of ten Alberta residents were saddened by the news of the discovery and nearly half were angered by it, an alarming 62 percent of Albertans were either shocked by the news or had no idea as to the extent of the abuse taking place within residential school walls. 

“For Canada to move forward in the spirit of truth and reconciliation, educational systems regionally must be better equipped to teach Indigenous history,” said CRRF board member and Métis activist, Roy Pogorzelski.  “This is a time for non-Indigenous people to act in meaningful allyship with Indigenous communities while we continue to work towards eliminating anti-Indigenous racism by breaking down racist systems and institutions that have been maintained in this country for generations.”

Demographically, there are some disparities along age, gender, and region within the survey results.  Four in five southern Alberta residents believe that not enough is being taught to students about the history of the residential school system.  Only half of northwestern Albertans feel the same way.  Seventy-nine percent of Alberta residents between the ages of 30 to 44 believe that the history of residential schools was understated in the school curriculum.  Nearly 60 percent of Albertan women believe that the residential school policy was an instrument of genocide, while only half of Albertan men are convinced of that fact. 

“The work to redraft the Alberta curriculum, with an indigenous lens, has fallen into the wayside only to be ignored,” said Lawrence Gervais, president of the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3.  “Our hope is that Albertans will discover the true history of Canada and honour the Métis who were affected by the residential school system. We are still feeling its impacts. We honour the 215 plus.”

About the Canadian Race Relations Foundation

The Canadian Race Relations Foundation was created in 1996 to reaffirm the principles of justice and equality for all in Canada. The mandate of the Foundation is to facilitate throughout Canada the development, sharing, and application of knowledge and expertise in order to contribute to the elimination of racism and all forms of racial discrimination in Canadian society.

About Abacus Data

Abacus Data is an innovative, fast-growing public opinion and marketing research consultancy. They use the latest technology, sound science, and deep experience to generate top-flight research-based advice for their clients. They offer global research capacity with a strong focus on customer service, attention to detail, and exceptional value.  Abacus Data was one of the most accurate pollsters conducting research during the 2019 Canadian Election.

About the Assembly of First Nations

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing 634 First Nations in Canada.

For press inquiries, please contact

Kimberly Bennett
Director of Communications
Canadian Race Relations Foundation
Email: kbennett@crrf-fcrr.ca
Phone: 437-533-1104

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