Students as young as 10 in British Columbia will soon be taught that past discriminatory government policies towards Aboriginal Peoples resulted in the crushing legacy of Canada's residential-school system.
Starting in Grade 5, students will learn about the schools and other racist government programs, such as the Chinese Head Tax, as part of a new education curriculum.
The changes for kindergarten-to-Grade-12 students include lessons that focus on aboriginal history and culture, and will be implemented provincewide by 2016.
B.C.'s Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation Minister John Rustad said Wednesday the classes will give students a more complete understanding of the province's history with its Aboriginal Peoples and strengthen reconciliation efforts.
He said students will study topics such as discrimination, inequality, oppression and the impacts of colonialism.
The changes are part of the B.C. government's response to 94 recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report on the residential-school system.
The commission recommended the creation and funding of aboriginal-education legislation, which protects languages and cultures and closes the education gap for Aboriginal Peoples. After six years of hearings, the report concluded Canada's residential-school system was a form of cultural genocide.
"The curriculum classes we are looking at are all about giving students a fuller understanding of our history in Canada," Rustad said. "There are many things that have happened in the province of British Columbia people are not aware of."
B.C. teachers will soon get to look at the curriculum so they can prepare for the courses.
"Aboriginal history, culture and perspectives have been integrated across subject areas and grade levels in B.C.'s new curriculum," said an Education Ministry statement.
A ministry spokesman said B.C.'s kindergarten-to-Grade-9 teachers have the opportunity to teach aboriginal-focused classes starting this September.
Course content for Grades 10-to-12 students will become part of a public consultation process and be available in 2016.
"The ministry is also committed to ensuring the history and ongoing legacy of the residential-school system is included throughout the new curriculum, particularly when learning about topics such as discrimination, inequality, oppression and the impacts of colonialism," said the statement.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender said in a statement that education brings positive change.
"Through the revised curriculum, we will be promoting greater understanding, empathy and respect for aboriginal history and culture among students and their families," he said.
The ministry said Grade 5 students will also be expected to learn about past discriminatory government policies, including the Chinese Head Tax.
"Teaching students about the past discrimination minority groups faced in this province ... allows students to develop their competency skills and encourages them to value diversity, care for each other and stand up for the rights of others and themselves," said the ministry statement.
First Nations Summit Grand Chief Ed John said following the release of the commission's report last month that too few Canadians, especially children, are aware of the residential-school experience.
"You might want to learn about Prince Charles and the Queen, that's good, but you should also want to know about your own history in this province, and we don't see enough of that in terms of the relationships between First Nations and the public," he said.