REGINA — Saskatchewan’s education minister is apologizing for referencing her son’s homework in a speech which appeared to question how treaty education is taught in schools.
Bronwyn Eyre says she’s sorry if there was confusion about her position and says she is committed to treaty education.
“I regret bringing up my son, and, if there was any misunderstanding that was caused, absolutely regret that as well,” Eyre said Tuesday after speaking to the Saskatchewan School Boards Association.
Eyre said in a speech in the legislature earlier this month that “there has come to be at once too much wholesale infusion into the curriculum … (and) too many attempts to mandate material into it both from the inside and by outside groups.”
She said her son, who is in Grade 8, brought home a history assignment that suggested all pioneers to Canada were ill-meaning.
When asked to clarify her speech, Eyre said it was about a broader discussion of curriculum. She suggested there might be too much “infusion” of First Nations history in schools.
Eyre told the school boards association that she is committed “to the 100 per cent mandating of treaty education in the province.”
School boards president Shawn Davidson said Eyre’s comments raise concerns. The association passed a resolution calling for a mandatory Indigenous studies course in Saskatchewan high schools, in addition to Aboriginal teachings already in the curriculum.
“It’s not about infusion into every subject matter. It’s about ensuring that things like social studies and history curriculums are consistent with the truth of the history of this country,” said Davidson.
He said the history he was taught when he went to school many years ago largely ignored treaty rights and Indigenous people.
“That was a different time and we’ve moved past that time.”
Ile-a-la-Cross Mayor Duane Favel is on the school board association’s executive and has been appointed to help with a review of the entire high school curriculum. He said he was taken aback by Eyre’s comments.
Favel said the remarks were disturbing and cast a pall on good work that has been done for several years.
But he also sees a chance to strengthen the relationship between the Saskatchewan School Boards Association and First Nations.
“We have to also look at this as possibly a good opportunity for the minister to reflect on her position, her beliefs, and … come to the point where we can move forward in a good way.”
Others want more action.
Saskatoon mother and writer Liz James has started a petition calling for Eyre to resign or be removed.
James said Eyre misrepresented the content of her son’s homework assignment and of treaty education.
In the petition, which had more than 1,200 signatures by Tuesday afternoon, James said Eyre had “demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of the content of the curriculum she was attacking” and “an utter lack of respect for Indigenous perspectives.”
James suggested that including First Nations history is vital to a child’s education.
“When a child says, ‘From my cultural perspective,’ the key there is that they’ve learned there’s more than one cultural lens,” she said.
“Secondly, the very idea of taking the original people of this land and segregating their history out as separate from history teaches children a really powerful lesson about the priorities in this province.
“Rearranging that content in my mind loses the crucial points that people have worked so hard to infuse into this.”