In 2008, Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada for the crimes committed against them in the residential school system, but it is sometimes difficult to see where this has made any difference.
Prince George has more Aboriginal students than any other school district in British Columbia. Our administrators have been working with the Aboriginal leaders in our region to establish an innovative program which is having a tremendously positive impact, not only on our Aboriginal children but on all students in the Prince George School District.
Today the Aboriginal graduation rate us up to 61%, and the next goal is to reach 80%.
Other areas of success are not as measurable, but certainly as significant. One Metis teacher remarked how refreshing it is to see students taking pride in their Aboriginal heritage, something that she didn’t do until she was in her 30s.
What are some of the things that are making a difference?
Aboriginal culture is taking a prominent place in our schools. There are celebrations involving art and music. There are also numerous curricular supports with Aboriginal content permeating all areas of study.
What is most thrilling about this entire journey is that it takes us back to the way things used to be, and the way they are meant to be. Aboriginal and European cultures lived in symbiosis in this part of the world for generations during the fur trade.
In a world that is just beginning to become aware of the devastating and lasting impact of colonialism, we are a beacon of hope. As we come together and improve our system, we demonstrate that positive change really is possible.