E-petition calls on feds to include residential schools history in Canadian citizenship study guide

But Truth and Reconciliation Commission report into residential schools goes further urging a change in the wording of the oath of citizenship to include a pledge to "faithfully observe" treaties with Indigenous Peoples

A petition calling on the federal government to redesign the current Canadian Citizenship study guide and exam to acknowledge Indigenous history has received the 500 signatures required to be formally tabled in the House.

The petition, an initiative of Mariam Manaa, a former summer intern in the office of Oakville North-Burlington Liberal MP Pam Damoff, is supported by Stephen Paquette, a member of the Anishinaabe from Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island. Paquette is chair of the Halton Indigenous Education Advisory Council. 

The changes proposed in the petition, he says, would uphold the commitment made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in his mandate letter to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to educate new Canadians on the intergenerational effects of residential schools and Canada’s legacy of colonialism. The current Discover Canada study guide and citizenship exam does not include any requirement to learn about the Indigenous nations of Canada. It contains only one paragraph on residential schools. 

“It’s a simple opportunity to educate newcomers to Canada and thereby change the landscape of perspectives going forward,” says Paquette. “These changes can make a lasting and meaningful impact to the relationships between Indigenous peoples and their neighbours.”

The final report of the Truth And Reconciliation Commission (TRC) into residential schools also encouraged the federal government to collaborate with national Indigenous organizations to revise the information kit for newcomers to “reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada.” But the TRC’s calls to action go further, urging the feds to change the wording of the oath of citizenship to include, “I will faithfully observe the laws of Canada including treaties with Indigenous Peoples.” 

Manaa says she undertook the project to raise awareness and has learned much more about the need to work with Indigenous communities to make change. “Many times we think that we are helping people by doing the work for them. However, how can we help them if we don’t work together to better things or make an impact together?”

A draft guide submitted by Damoff in the House along with the petition delves extensively into the history and present-day lives of Indigenous Peoples, and includes a lengthy section on residential schools.

However Damoff tells NOW in an email that “the timeline for implementing the changes are up to the Minister [Ahmed Hussen].”

The petition is available online until December 15 at 12:30 pm.    

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