Maurice Switzer, author and educator. Photo credit: Rocco Frangione
A First Nation educator says when it comes to First Nation studies, the Near North District School Board has it right.
Maurice Switzer of North Bay is also an author and made his comment while Ontario holds Treaties Recognition Week.
Switzer has visited many school boards and finds some are better than others with their Indigenous curriculum.
Looking strictly at Southern Ontario, Switzer says the Catholic boards have better programs than their public counterparts.
He believes it’s because some of their goals like character development and creating good citizens fit with the Reconciliation mandate.
Switzer says the shared similarity makes the Catholic schools strong advocates for Indigenous studies.
Switzer believes it’s harder for schools in the south to connect with a First Nation curriculum because Southern Ontario doesn’t have a visible Indigenous population when compared to Northern Ontario.
“So you have these schools with large populations of Caribbean or Oriental students and they probably wonder why there’s a Treaties Recognition Week,” Switzer said.
“They don’t see the big picture that Reconciliation is about learning Canada’s true past, about things that were never taught in school, things that I was never taught.”
However, it’s a different story in the north especially with the Near North board which Switzer says has “done some tremendous things”.
He says the board just unveiled a book for Grade 3 students that address what treaties promised and the message they deliver.
“They’ve been ahead of the curve,” he said.
“I think the students who go to Near North board schools will be far ahead of where some kids in some parts of the province are.”
Switzer believes we’ll see a mind shift in attitudes towards Indigenous issues in a generation or two saying the change won’t happen overnight.
He says some parents are still bewildered and overwhelmed by some of the stories their children bring home from school like “people who didn’t know what a residential school was.”
“They hear stories like 5,000 kids died in residential schools and they’re shocked when they’re told about this, plus there’s disbelief and anger,” he said.
But Switzer says when the students of today become parents, their kids won’t encounter the same resistance that parents today provide.