Oct 16/98: Students "pawns" in Nisga'a lessons?


The Province
October 16, 1998, p. A2
Staff reporter

[S.I.S.I.S. note: The following mainstream news article may contain biased or distorted information and may be missing pertinent facts and/or context. It is provided for reference only.]

Education Minister Paul Ramsey says treaty info will 'help create a greater sensitivity' to aboriginal peoples. A B.C. government plan to promote the Nisga'a treaty in schools is "a shameless abuse of power," says an outraged Opposition leader Gordon Campbell.

Education Minister Paul Ramsey says students in Grades 4, 9, 10 and 11 will be offered information on the treaty as part of a program offered to all students.

But Campbell branded the program a "one-sided political campaign" in which students are used as "political pawns." "It's bad enough that the NDP are blowing $2.5 million of taxpayers' money on their one-sided Nisga'a propaganda campaign and bending the facts about the deal," Campbell said yesterday. "This is a shameless abuse of power that shows contempt for the education system and a total disregard for British Columbians who have alternate perspectives and legitimate concerns about the proposed Nisga'a template."

The controversial Nisga'a treaty has been signed by the Nisga'a, B.C. and Ottawa, but hasn't been approved by any of the three groups involved.

Education ministry spokeswoman Paige MacFarlane defended the program. "It's not a one-sided thing," she said. "It's not simply the government line on Nisga'a. It has to be educationally sound, or it will not end up in our classrooms." MacFarlane said the optional teaching modules are still in the works. "These are still in the development stage. It's not mandatory in any way. It will be made available to teachers to use, and it's up to their discretion whether they do so. The idea behind it is to spark debate in social-studies classes."

Ramsey said treaty information will be part of a program, called Shared Learnings: Integrating B.C. Aboriginal Content, designed to help teachers make aboriginal culture come alive: "This guide will enable all educators to help create a greater sensitivity to and respect for the richness and diversity of the aboriginal peoples of B.C."

Students at Kitsilano secondary school in Vancouver had mixed reactions. Grade 10 student Svea Vikander said the program "can be very biased because of the NDP...there are other sides of the story, like in newspapers, and we should see them." But Grade 8 student Casey Orton said: "I think that it would be cool to learn about."

Letters to The Province: provedpg@pacpress.southam.ca

Back to SIS