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Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce answers questions during a press conference at Queen's Park in Toronto on June 2.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Ontario is planning to add Indigenous learning to the social studies curriculum for Grades 1 to 3, the Education Minister announced ahead of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

The social studies curriculum in Grades 4 to 6 already includes Indigenous issues, as does the history curriculum for Grades 7, 8 and 10, including learning on residential schools in Grades 8 and 10.

Starting in September, 2023, children in the earlier grades will learn about the role of family and resilience in First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, their historical and contemporary realities, and the residential school system, Stephen Lecce announced Wednesday.

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“We believe that all students, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, are enriched by learning about the history, the culture, the perspectives and contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis individuals in communities in Canada,” the minister said.

The new curriculum elements are being developed with Indigenous partners, elders and knowledge holders, Mr. Lecce said.

Joanne Meyer, the chief operating officer of the Métis Nation of Ontario, said the announcement would bring the province’s curriculum in line with recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

“This would ensure that age-appropriate mandatory curriculum content pertaining to residential schools, treaties and the lives of First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples is made available to all students,” she said.

The announcement came one day before the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.

While the federal government has said Sept. 30 will be a statutory holiday in honour of the lost children and survivors of residential schools, Ontario has not made it a provincial statutory holiday.

Mr. Lecce said it’s critical for the province’s two million children to be in school learning about Indigenous history and reconciliation.

“We have an opportunity to change the hearts and minds of young people, to inspire them, but also to create the awareness that I think every citizen must have and by working tomorrow, building it in to our school system on the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation and strengthening our curriculum overall … I think we can pursue a commitment to reconciliation in a much more meaningful way,” he said.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Greg Rickford said the province will be guided in its decisions on how to mark the day by Indigenous leadership, and he said right now there isn’t a consensus.

“For now we think that … tomorrow is a period of reflection and encourage everyone to think about it that way,” he said.

Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce says it’s important for schools to be open Thursday on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation so that students can honour the children who died in residential schools, as well as survivors, their families and communities. Provincial governments are facing calls to make the day a statutory holiday.

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