Updated: Jun 4
3 December 2020
Attention: Dr. Kevin Godden, Superintendent of Schools, Abbotsford School District
CC: Jennifer Whiteside, Education Minister, Province of BC Teri Mooring, President BC Teachers Federation Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Re: W.A. Fraser School Homework Assignment
Dear Dr. Godden,
West Coast Coalition Against Racism (WC-CARS) expresses solidarity with Indigenous
peoples and unequivocally denounces the William A. Fraser Middle School teacher's action of asking students to search and “Write 5+ positive stories/facts about residential schools." This abhorrent incident, yet again, draws attention to a continuum of systemic racism and violence against Indigenous peoples. Abbotsford is not far from the site of St.Mary's Residential School in Mission that was closed in 1984. Many educators in the region have been trying to generate awareness about history-in-our-backyard with specific reference to St. Mary's as a direct representation of colonial violence against Indigenous peoples in Canada. Asking students to identify "positive stories/facts about residential schools" is a quintessential reminder of colonial attitudes of benevolent colonialism. Such thinking requires strong criticism, introspection, and constructive action by the Abbotsford School District in particular and all school boards in general. The action of the teacher is also an indicator that anti-racism and Indigenization initiatives and trainings cannot remain restricted to a few hours, a day, or even a week; these are everyday commitments that all associated with the school district need to undertake and practice. The William A. Fraser Middle School incident undermines the efforts that many teachers in different schools in Abbotsford School District are making to learn from Indigenous elders and others and, in turn, share it with their students. It stands in stark contrast to one of the “emerging ideas” noted by you in your blog on 2 Nov 2018 that “Indigenization is valued, and teachers want to do it justice.” There needs to be a thorough examination of activities and assignments that teachers give to their students (keeping in perspective the possibility that similar incidents may have gone unreported previously or even concurrently).
West Coast Coalition Against Racism urges the Abbotsford School District to not only deal with the current incident but also engage in an in-depth district-wide examination of practices to enhance their “Equity Framework” driven plans with clear articulation of anti-racism and Indigenization. Having a document is not sufficient; to uphold one of the core values of Abbotsford School District—Respect—it is both practice and enforcement of principles defining equity that are the requirement of the day. We look forward to hearing from you regarding actions that are being taken to address this troubling pedagogical practice.
West Coast Coalition Against Racism Society