Skip to main content

Canada’s largest school board will make a course on Indigenous texts its compulsory Grade 11 English credit in a bid to ensure students graduate with a greater understanding of Indigenous culture and history.

Trustees with the Toronto District School Board voted Wednesday to replace its current mandatory Grade 11 course with one titled Understanding Contemporary First Nations, Métis and Inuit Voices.

“Indigenous Elders and scholars have reminded us that truth must come before reconciliation, yet the TDSB and the Ontario education system have no mechanism yet for ensuring that all students learn the truth about Indigenous brilliance, contributions, history, and learn from contemporary Indigenous voices in Canada,” Colleen Russell-Rawlins, the board’s education director, said in a statement.

“This is an exciting opportunity to ensure our students graduate with a greater understanding of Indigenous cultures and history than their parents/caregivers.”

The decision follows recent moves by several other school boards, including those in York and Durham regions, to make the course the compulsory Grade 11 English credit.

A course statement on the website for Lambton Kent District School Board, where it’s been the mandatory since 2017, lists Richard Wagamese’s “Indian Horse” and Thomas King’s “Green Grass, Running Water” as resources.

Ontario curriculum materials indicate the course was designed as an alternative to compulsory English ones and shares the same learning areas, while exploring a range of Indigenous literary, oral, media and cultural texts.

TDSB says staff have been directed to prepare a report by June outlining how and when to roll out the new required course to all of its 110 secondary schools.

Ontario students are introduced to classics of the Western canon throughout high school English classes, but are not commonly assigned Indigenous masterpieces.

“By incorporating Indigenous authors and texts into Grade 11 English, students are not only meeting the Grade 11 English expectations, they are being exposed to a whole range of remarkable First Nations, Métis and Inuit literature that they may not otherwise learn from in other courses,” said TDSB chair Rachel Chernos Lin in a statement.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe