School District No. 46 (SD46) committed to consultation with the Sechelt Indian Band (SIB) about Aboriginal education this week, after SIB Chief Garry Feschuk paid the board a visit to ask for some specific reports on the subject.
“I come with a couple purposes tonight. One is I’m hoping to go on record that I would like a report from the school board on the Aboriginal education to our council and also a report on the consultation process that the board does with the Sechelt First Nation,” Feschuk said at the June 12 school board meeting. “The reason why I’m asking for the report is I’m concerned about the lack of consultation. We know that something happened and it was wrong, so I’m interested in how we’re going to correct this.”
He also asked for a report on the targeted funding used for Aboriginal education in the district, saying that once all the reports are finished, his council would like a meeting with SD46 to discuss them.
Feschuk last visited the board in May when he heard Aboriginal education principal Kerry Mahlman was to be moved from her position. At that time he chastised the board for the decision and the lack of consultation with the SIB before it was made.
School board trustee Lori Dixon noted at the June 12 board meeting that she feels the board has been avoiding the subject of Aboriginal education and has not been willing to talk about it publicly.
“There’s never any real public discussion on almost anything. This is certainly not a transparent board,” Dixon said, adding she feels marginalized by other board members and that her voice is not heard at the table.
She tried to put the issue of Aboriginal education on the June 12 agenda, but the motion met some difficulty when it was noted staffing issues and targeted funding could not be talked about publicly as the issues had not been released from in-camera meetings yet.
“If we start to morph our rules simply because there’s emotions or frustration, we do ourselves a disservice,” said trustee Betty Baxter. “I’m willing to support putting this on the agenda, but trustee Dixon I’m suggesting you do yourself and your issue a disservice when you morph it from one thing to another, so we are not clear exactly what we are talking about.”
After some discussion, the item was added and Dixon started the conversation.
“I think we should take a really close look at Aboriginal education on the Coast. It’s 10 years old and we’ve never really sat down with the Aboriginal education wing, if you want to call it that, and assess, really assess, whether it has been an effective use of dollars,” she said.
All seemed willing to have the discussion and ideas were floated: setting up an ad hoc committee, adding Aboriginal education to the education standing committee or holding meetings with different Aboriginal groups serviced in SD46.
All had some merit, but Baxter said there was an offer already on the table.
“I think the first thing we have to do is stop running off with our own plans with no information and follow the invitation that’s been made to us from the strongest group of Aboriginal people on the Coast,” she said.
All were in favour of preparing the reports for the SIB and sitting down to have a conversation about them, as well as putting the Aboriginal education issue on an upcoming working session later this month to give more thought and discussion to the subject.