Check out our Aboriginal Job Board!
School board chair’s comments raises concern for Aboriginal commission
A comment meant to address the diversity of students attending Edmonton public schools has raised red flags with the Aboriginal Commission on Human Rights and Justice.
“We were upset and concerned about the mentioning of Aboriginal students for the reason for the lower mark for Edmonton Public,” said Muriel Stanley Venne, chair of the Aboriginal commission.
In early October, Dave Colburn, chair of the Edmonton Public School Board, said results of his school division’s grade 12 diploma exams were “mixed” and marks were lower in some subjects because of EPSB’s “complex demographic… we have a significant number of immigrant and refugee students, Aboriginal students and special needs students ….”
Colburn has since apologized for any misinterpretation of his comments.
“My intent was to speak to the diversity of the student population. It was never my intent to offend anyone and for any member of the Aboriginal community that was offended by my remarks, I offer my sincere apology,” he said. “I’m actually fairly passionately committed to supporting Aboriginal success.”
Colburn pointed out that it was his motion several years ago that resulted in a trustee task force to review Aboriginal education. That in turn led to the creation of Aboriginal policy and regulations in the school division as well as the hiring of qualified staff to support Aboriginal learning.
Shortly after Colburn’s remarks were reported, Stanley Venne received phone calls from concerned Aboriginal educators. She then initiated contact with Colburn over the telephone. The two are supposed to meet in person shortly.
“It’s good we’re having this discussion. It’s probably overdue,” said Stanley Venne.
Stanley Venne said she is concerned Colburn’s remarks will have a trickle-down effect in the classroom.
“I would think the teachers would be influenced… That was our concern and not only the teachers, but the general public. ‘That’s just the Natives again. They can’t cope with it. They’re making our schools look bad’ kind-of-thing. Really, the effect of what he said, we were worried that would be the conclusion,” she said.
Colburn said, “Our staff, I know, are committed to the success, as our board is, of all of our students so I don’t have any concern that there will be unpleasant or unproductive repercussions at the staff level. Our staff are absolutely professional.”
Stanley Venne said her concerns are not focused solely on EPSB, but on schools in general in the province. In a recent study carried out by the commission, 59 per cent of the Aboriginal people surveyed felt discrimination ranked highest within the educational system.
Like all other provincial school boards, EPSB will be receiving additional money from the province. EPSB’s share of the $107 million announced by newly-appointed Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk in mid-October is approximately $13 million. The province has allocated the funding for specified areas, which does not include First Nations, Métis, Inuit programming.
“Each school board has the latitude to identify their own pressure points and as long as they can substantiate…that these dollars have been spent in a way that actually gave access to children positively in the classroom, they will have spent the dollars wisely. And I don’t question their judgement,” said Lukaszuk.
Colburn said EPSB is open to the possibility of using the additional dollars for FNMI programming.
“Administration is presently undertaking an analysis of what the best use of these funds are and will be bringing recommendations to the board,” he said.
In this school year, the provincial government has allotted $1,155 per self-identified First Nation, Métis or Inuit student. Last school year, Alberta school boards received $45 million for 39,000 self-identified FNMI students.
- Community Access
- Contact Us
- Our History
- Archives Search
- In Depth
Share this with friends
- The #IdleNoMore Movement
- Relationship between Canada's Justice System and Aboriginal People
- 2013 Guide to Powwow Country Events Calendar
- Play Radio Bingo to win!
- CFWE-FM Alberta Radio Network
- Buffalo Spirit Foundation
- Western Association of Aboriginal Broadcasters (WAAB)
- June Windspeaker - May 27
- June Raven's Eye - May 27
- June Saskatchewan Sage - May 27
- June Alberta Sweetgrass - June 10
- Download 2013 AMMSA media kits for:
* Sage - Raven's Eye - Birchbark
- Online advertising on www.ammsa.com.
Subscribe & Donate
- Order a Windspeaker digital subscription
- Order a Windspeaker print subscription
- Support independent, Indigenous media in Canada by making a donation via paypal