To the editor:
The Regional Multicultural Youth Council (RMYC) is working on a project to advocate for Indigenous, racialized and minority students whose voices are often not heard, hoping that their concerns will be addressed in our schools. This complements Ontario’s Equity an Inclusive Education Strategy and the Accepting Schools Act designed to enhance student wellness, safety and achievement in our publicly funded system because a good education is a strong foundation to build a better and brighter future.
Last spring, the Lakehead District School Board hosted a Youth Embracing Diversity in Education Student Conference for eight district school boards across Northwestern Ontario. The RMYC led a session on “Multiculturalism — from different pasts to a common future”. During the session, we discussed issues of discrimination, exclusion, racism and colonization. We prepared a report with several recommendations to make schools more inclusive, accepting and welcoming so that all students can realize their true potential to learn and succeed. We also came up with ideas to eliminate the ignorance that feeds stereotypes and prejudice, and fuels racial tensions, blame and hatred prevalent today.
In the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, we suggested raising awareness about the contributions of Indigenous people to Canadian society missing in our school curriculum. I discussed with my principal at Sir Winston Churchill Collegiate Vocational Institute, Mr. Isherwood that our school should acknowledge the fact that it is on Fort William First Nation traditional lands. This will educate students who are not aware of this fact, as well as remind others that Indigenous groups are the original inhabitants of Canada, and we reside on these lands under the Superior Robinson Treaty.
A few days later during the morning announcements, I was thrilled to hear the whole school being informed that we are on the traditional lands of the Ojibway people. Overall, I hope that all schools will teach present and future generation of students about the original owners of the land we call home today. This reflects the generosity of the First Nations who have allowed us to share their ancestral territory, shows appreciation for the benefits we have gained by settling here, and the wealth we have accumulated from their natural resources. Honouring and respecting the historical owners of Canada before colonization puts into perspective the Calls to Action to address the social and economic gaps that exist between Indigenous and immigrant groups as the nation celebrates 150 years since Confederation. This will add another building block to reconciliation.
Wendy Wang, RMYC Co-President
Regional Multicultural Youth Council
Thunder Bay, Ontario