Homework assignment to list ‘positive’ stories about residential schools under investigation

The Abbotsford School district is investigating a homework assignment given to students asking them to list “positive” impacts from Canada’s residential school system for Indigenous children.

Word of the assignment from William A. Fraser Middle School was spread on the social media platform TikTok. The district said it was made aware of it Wednesday morning.

The TikTok video shows a woman holding a homework handout with the directions: “Write at least five positive stories/facts from the residential schools from three different websites.”

The woman in the video, who CBC News has not yet identified, said the assignment was given to her daughter in Grade 6. She identified both her daughter and herself as First Nations.

The mother of a child at W.A. Fraser Middle School in Abbotsford, B.C. shows the handout with the directions, “Write at least five positive stories/facts from the residential schools from three different websites.” 0:36

“They’re whitewashing the rape of our culture, the theft of our people and the genocide of just everything in general when it comes to First Nations people. 

“They’re not teaching them the truth… Can you name five positive things about Nazis and the concentration camps? Can you name five positive things about slavery? This is not okay.

“This is what they’re teaching your kids in school.”

Residential schools across Canada removed Indigenous children from their families from the 1800s until late-1900s, often transporting them far from home, where they weren’t allowed to speak their own language and were often physically, emotionally or sexually abused. The system has been blamed for damaging Indigenous traditions and family ties.

District says assignment ‘not acceptable’

In a statement, district superintendent Kevin Godden said the school’s principal has apologized to parents for the assignment.

“We are deeply sorry for any harm caused to the parents, students, families and the Indigenous community at large,” Godden said in a statement.

“As a school district, we are deeply committed to equity and inclusion. We work collaboratively with our community partners and our Indigenous Education Department to support student learning and help our teachers infuse Indigenous knowledge and perspectives into the classroom. 

“Assignments like this are not acceptable. This incident is a disservice to the district’s commitment to truth and reconciliation.”

The district said the assignment is not a reflection of its teaching workforce.

“We are committed to ensuring that all materials provided to our students are culturally responsive and recognize our responsibility to alert educators to implicit bias, colorblindness, and racism,” the statement continued.

“As this is a personnel matter, no further information is available at this time.”

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