B.C.’s Upcoming Indigenous Course Requirements for High School Students (French version available)
June marks National Indigenous History Month. This month it is important to recognize Indigenous people and their culture as integral parts of Canadian history. Over the years, the Canadian federal and provincial governments have been implementing more efforts towards mending relations with Indigenous peoples.
In 2021, the National Day of Truth and Reconciliation was held as a nation-wide Canadian holiday for the first time on September 30.
In 2023, something on a provincial level will be integrated in B.C.: Indigenous course requirements for high school students.
What Is This New Requirement?
A new graduation requirement will come during B.C.’s 2023-2024 school year. For high school students planning to graduate that year, they must complete four credits in Indigenous courses.
Together with the First Nations Education Steering Committee, B.C.’s Ministry of Education created this requirement to showcase the importance of acknowledging Indigenous voices, histories, and knowledge.
Between March 7, 2022 and April 22, 2022, the Provincial Government of British Columbia asked British Columbians for feedback on this move. B.C. will be the first province in Canada to require Indigenous course credit for high school graduates.
Current Indigenous Course Education
In 2019, B.C. overhauled the curriculum for all students K-12 to include Indigenous content in multiple grade levels. Even with the new curriculum, most high school students have not taken any Indigenous-focused courses.
Most B.C. students graduate with more credits than required to receive a high school diploma, but the majority do not take any provincially approved Indigenous courses.
Despite the existence of courses such as First Peoples’ English and First Nations Studies in some schools, the implementation across the province is lacking. Only about 5% of B.C. students have taken and completed grade 10-12 level Indigenous or First Peoples courses.
Why the Change?
As Canadians, all parts of our country’s past — the good and the bad — need to be acknowledged. Without any awareness and/or acknowledgement, an answer to a problem cannot be found.
Canada’s history with Indigenous peoples has not been a kind one, nor has the negativity faded from the past. In fact, a lot of these events in history are recent: the first residential school in Canada opened in 1831, but the last residential school closed in 1998, less than 25 years ago.
Present and future generations of Indigenous people continue carrying the negative effects from previous (and present) treatment from the Canadian government.
While the horrors of the past cannot be erased, the inclusion of this Indigenous course requirement helps towards reconciliation. B.C. high school graduates will have the knowledge necessary to improve relations in the future.
“Indigenous-Focused Graduation Requirements.” GovTogetherBC, Government of British Columbia, 22 Apr. 2022, https://engage.gov.bc.ca/govtogetherbc/consultation/indigenous-focused-graduation-requirements/. Accessed 7 May 2022.
Jeganathan, Jeyan, and Carla Lucchetta. “‘Felt throughout Generations’: A Timeline of Residential Schools in Canada.” TVO, 21 June 2021, https://www.tvo.org/article/felt-throughout-generations-a-timeline-of-residential-schools-in-canada. Accessed 10 May 2022.
Little, Simon, and Neetu Garcha. “B.C. to Make Indigenous-Focused Coursework a High School Graduation Requirement.” Global News, 6 Mar. 2022, https://globalnews.ca/news/8661463/bc-indigenous-graduation-requirement/. Accessed 7 May 2022.
Ministry of Education and Child Care. “New Grad Requirement Ensures Students Expand Their Knowledge about Indigenous Perspectives, Histories, Cultures.” BC Gov News, Government of British Columbia, 4 Mar. 2022, https://news.gov.bc.ca/releases/2022EDUC0007-000297. Accessed 7 May 2022.
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Government of Canada, 29 Sept. 2021, https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/national-day-truth-reconciliation.html. Accessed 13 May 2022.
“Residential School History.” National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation: NCTR, https://nctr.ca/education/teaching-resources/residential-school-history/. Accessed 10 May 2022.
“Residential School Timeline.” National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation: NCTR, https://nctr.ca/exhibits/residential-school-timeline/. Accessed 10 May 2022.