TORONTO, September 12, 2000 - A British Columbia plan to hire more Aboriginal teachers in public schools is an important step forward but must be accompanied by more decisive action to restore full control over education to Aboriginal peoples, says the executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.
"One factor that leads to the high drop-out rate of Aboriginal students is a lack of Aboriginal role models in the public school system," says Moy Tam. "Consequently, I commend B.C. politicians and educators for recognizing the importance of recruiting and retaining larger numbers of Aboriginal teachers."
On Monday, B.C. government ministers and educators met and agreed to work together on three priorities. They decided to hire more Aboriginal teachers to work in public schools, to develop a program to retain Aboriginal teachers after they are hired, and to establish an anti-racism program that will address the specific problems faced by Aboriginal children.
"These priorities are very important, but the federal and provincial governments must also acknowledge that control over education is a key component of Aboriginal self-government," says Tam. "Aboriginal peoples in Canada must have the authority to run their own school systems and control how their children are educated."
Aboriginal-controlled education was a key recommendation of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, which released its report in 1996. In a chapter on education, the Commission called on federal, provincial and territorial governments to"act promptly to acknowledge that education is a core area for the exercise of Aboriginal self-government."
Tam says the federal government's failure to implement RCAP's recommendations may be raised at next year's World Conference Against Racism, which is taking place in South Africa. The Foundation will be working in partnership with both racial-minority communities and Aboriginal peoples to present a position at the conference that recommends action-oriented measures and strategies for combating both overt and systemic forms of racism.
The Canadian Race Relations Foundation (www.crr.ca) opened its doors in November, 1997. It operates at arm's length from the federal government and works at the forefront of efforts to combat racism and all forms of racial discrimination in Canada.