Believe it or not, a City of Winnipeg committee is proposing the creation of a separate school division exclusively for native children.
The idea is part of an attempt to combat the city’s growing violent crime problem (a number of aboriginal gangs are active in the Manitoba capital).
The strategy proposes the creation of a separate, publicly funded First Nations school division, not unlike the one created 16 years ago for French-speaking Manitobans.
“Why should aboriginal people be denied the same thing?” asked Damon Johnston, president of the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg. “It can only rest in racism.”
Isn’t it odd that critics of a proposal to ghettoize First Nations students, separate from other races, would be called racists?
If we’ve learned anything from our American neighbours, it should be that “separate but equal” is a concept that doesn’t work.
Just as the United States eventually realized it was a mistake to put all the white kids from a community in one school, and all the black kids in another, this Winnipeg-based scheme will hopefully eventually be recognized as utter folly.
Has Winnipeg not learned anything from Canada’s residential school scandal?
It wasn’t very long ago that Prime Minister Stephen Harper apologized for that debacle, which damaged countless aboriginals and cost taxpayers a fortune in payments to former students.
If we are ever to have a harmonious society, then surely the best way to foster that is to bring children of all races and creeds together in schools.
Canadian students should not be separated on the basis of race, as they were for years under South Africa’s apartheid system.
Admittedly, in most parts of Canada, students are already divided into public and Catholic school divisions.
Children probably never should have been divided by religion, but that is a historical fact for which there now appears to be no practical remedy.
Since we already have two school systems in most of the country, let’s not make the situation worse by adding others.
If we do decide to go down this road as a society, then maybe we’ll eventually have separate schools for whites, Orientals, blacks, etc.
Think that couldn’t happen?
Remember, just two years ago, Toronto’s public school board decided to create an Afrocentric school: a school for black kids.
Manitoba’s Aboriginal and Northern Affairs Minister Eric Robinson says he has already experienced a segregated school system: residential schools.
As for Winnipeg’s crime, Ron Evans, Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, blames the residential school program, among other factors.
So are segregated schools the problem or the solution?
Clearly, they are not the solution.
Fortunately, even if the proposed race-based school division is approved by the City of Winnipeg, it can’t get off the ground without the endorsement of provincial and federal governments.
And after the residential school fiasco of the past, they likely won’t support something so ridiculous.
Remember, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Lee Giles is an Advocate editor.