Alberta's provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Monday, July 6, 2020. Advisers are reportedly recommending Alberta's kindergarten to Grade 4 arts and social studies curriculum remove all references to residential schools because it's "too sad" for young children. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Advisers suggest Alberta students not learn about residential schools before Grade 4

Documents suggest children younger than Grade 4 are too emotionally vulnerable to learn about residential schools

The chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission says young children aren’t too emotionally vulnerable to learn about residential schools as a leaked draft of proposed Alberta curriculum changes suggests.

Senator Murray Sinclair says survivors have shared their stories with young children and there’s no evidence it was damaging.

A draft of proposed Alberta curriculum changes obtained by CBC News suggests that children younger than Grade 4 are too emotionally vulnerable to learn about residential schools.

In documents posted on CBC’s website, the government is advised to save that topic for older children and that Grade 9 students could potentially learn about residential schools as one example of “harsh schooling” in the past.

While Canadian residential schools are described as “traumatic material,” the draft for the kindergarten to Grade 4 curriculum recommends students be taught about ancient Rome, battles of the Middle Ages and slavery in the Ottoman Empire.

The commission’s report in 2015 called on ministers of education to include the history and legacy of residential schools in kindergarten to Grade 12 curriculums.

It described the Canadian government’s long-running policy of removing Indigenous children from their communities as cultural genocide.

Sinclair, during an online conversation Wednesday with the Assembly of Manitoba chiefs, said the most important part of the residential schools story is their impact on younger children.

It’s clear a curriculum could be developed and taught to young children without causing any emotional damage, said Sinclair, who added that many attended Truth and Reconciliation Commission events.

“There is no situation that has ever occurred that I’m aware of that there has been a complaint that the children are negatively impacted or damaged by the experience.”

The authors of the proposed curriculum changes also advise that the concept of equity not be taught because it is “ideologically loaded.”

Alberta Indigenous Relations Minister Rick Wilson dismissed criticism from the Opposition NDP about the curriculum proposals as fearmongering.

“These are merely recommendations that will go to the curriculum working group of teachers later this fall,” he wrote on Twitter.

“At face value, some of these recommendations just aren’t realistic — especially for the ages suggested. Again, they’re recommendations. These documents are not the curriculum.”

— By Lauren Krugel in Calgary. With files from Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg

The Canadian Press

AlbertaEducationIndigenousresidential schoolsSchools

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