Ontario To Strengthen Mandatory Indigenous Learning in School Curriculum

Published on October 01, 2021

Working with Indigenous partners, Elders, Knowledge Holders and education stakeholders, the Ontario government announced a plan to expand First Nation, Métis and Inuit content and learning in the elementary curriculum. The province announced that these changes will further strengthen mandatory learning on residential schools and foster greater understanding within the province’s education system of the intergenerational legacy borne by Indigenous families. This work builds on Ontario’s first phase of curriculum revisions in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action, which were implemented in 2018. In addition, in 2021-22, the ministry is providing $23.96 million in Indigenous Education funding to support First Nations, Métis and Inuit students as part of a broader government commitment to reconciliation. The Ontario government built on this commitment with the announcement this week to continue expanding multi-year funding to support sustainability in partner organizations.

Stephen Lecce, Minister of Education, and Greg Rickford, Minister of Indigenous Affairs, made the announcement at Native Child and Family Services of Toronto joined by Traditional Knowledge Keeper Vivian Roy, James Marsden, Chiefs of Ontario Education Portfolio Holder and Anishinabek Nation Southeast Regional Deputy Grand Council Chief, and Joanne Meyer, Chief Operating Officer of the Métis Nation of Ontario.

The Ontario government’s work will ensure that First Nation, Métis and Inuit perspectives are reflected throughout the province’s curriculum. Currently, the province’s curriculum includes mandatory learning in Social Studies, Grades 4-6, and History in Grades 7, 8, and 10, including mandatory learning on residential schools in Grades 8 and 10, introduced in 2018.

The Ministry of Education announced a commitment to complete the full spectrum of learning across this elementary curriculum, addressing the current gap in Grades 1 and 3 by September 2023. This timeline and the curriculum development process is being co-developed with Indigenous partners to reflect meaningful collaboration while recognizing the urgency of this content in learning.

Ministers Lecce and Rickford outlined Ontario’s education plan to strengthen Indigenous learning through a meaningful co-development process with Indigenous partners, Elders and Knowledge Holders, including:

  • Mandatory Indigenous-focused learning added to the Social Studies, Grades 1-3 curriculum, including exploring opportunities for new learning on:
    • The role of family and resilience in First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities and nations
    • First Nations, Métis and Inuit historical and contemporary realities
    • Indigenous peoples’ interrelationship and connection with the land
    • The residential school system and the reclamation and revitalization of identity, language, culture and community connections.

This commitment ensures that all students, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, are enriched by learning about the histories, cultures, perspectives and contributions of First Nation, Métis and Inuit individuals and communities in Canada. These efforts further Ontario’s commitment to work with Indigenous partners to advance reconciliation and to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action.

“We are committed to recognizing the contributions of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit individuals, communities and nations to our province and country while learning their histories and cultures,” said Minister Lecce. “Including Indigenous content and voices in Ontario’s curriculum – along with mandatory learning on residential schools – is a meaningful way that we can address issues of racism, Indigenous student well-being and advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples. We are also investing more to support Indigenous students, with the aim of boosting graduation rates and enabling economic opportunity for the next generation of Indigenous students.”

To this end, the ministry is investing $23.96 million from the Priorities and Partnerships Funding in targeted supports for First Nation, Métis and Inuit students, in addition to the existing funding for school boards in the 2021-22 school year. These investments will allow Indigenous partners, school boards and other education stakeholders to produce high-impact supports that provide supportive, culturally appropriate and safe education opportunities for Indigenous students, while strengthening Ontario’s education system and well-being for all learners in the province. In addition, the province is supporting Indigenous language revitalization and reconciliation by offering Inuktitut as a language of instruction within Ontario’s Indigenous languages curricula.

In addition, the Ministry of Education recently approved sustainable, multi-year funding agreements for an investment of $3.19 million over three years to strengthen existing partnerships with the Chiefs of Ontario and First Nation Provincial Territorial Organizations (PTOs) and provide stable funding for the length of the agreement. This investment will support reconciliation and student success with the goal of promoting higher graduation rates and transitions into post-secondary and employment opportunities for First Nation students.

The Métis Nation of Ontario is also receiving $850,000 in 2021-22 towards collaborating with school board administrators and educators in the learning of Métis knowledge and the integration of this knowledge into Indigenous education programs and initiatives, as well as multi-year funding for three years starting in 2020-21 for a total of $406,000 for the River Program, an alternative secondary school program that provides academic and cultural supports to Métis students.

“We are investing in culturally appropriate learning for Indigenous students and enhancing opportunities for all learners to increase their knowledge of First Nation, Inuit and Métis histories and cultures to help all Ontarians gain a better understanding and respect for Indigenous perspectives,” said Minister Rickford. “Our government continues to work in collaboration with Indigenous partners to co-develop this curriculum to ensure Indigenous voices are at the centre of this important work.”

The Ontario government is committed to ensuring every Indigenous student across the province is supported with access to culturally safe learning opportunities. The government will continue to support targeted initiatives to improve outcomes for Indigenous students and to build the knowledge of all students and educators regarding Indigenous histories, cultures, perspectives and contributions.