RESIGNATION PETITION GROWS
SASKATOON As of Tuesday afternoon, more than 1,200 people had signed an online petition calling for Bronwyn Eyre to resign or be removed from her position as Saskatchewan’s education minister amid an ongoing controversy over treaty education in the province.
The petition argues that Eyre should step down because she demonstrated a lack of understanding of Indigenous issues while using her apparent misrepresentation of her son’s Grade 8 homework assignment as the basis for broad changes to the curriculum.
“Taken together, these actions represent incompetence in her role, as well as an attempted erasure of our history of colonialism in Canada,” states the Change.org petition, which had collected 1,570 signatures by 6:40 p.m. Tuesday.
Liz James, a Saskatoon-based mother and blogger, said she was inspired to launch the petition after growing alarmed by Eyre’s comments in the legislative assembly on Nov. 1 about her son’s homework assignment.
Eyre told the legislature that her son copied down “as facts” that “European settlers were colonialists, pillagers of the land.” A copy of the assignment and class notes obtained by Postmedia News did not use those words.
Instead, the assignment asked students to discuss the difference between Indigenous and non-Indigenous perspectives on the land.
Eyre, the MLA for Stonebridge-Dakota, later said she was simply proposing that the province consider the notion of a course dedicated to Indigenous history and culture rather than “infusing” it into the broader curriculum.
James said that is the wrong approach.
“To me, that failure to see every student in every desk’s perspective as equally valid and equally core is a huge problem,” James said in an interview on Tuesday.
“When she says we can just pull those things out and present them later as Indigenous content, that displays a complete inability to understand how curriculum works — that it doesn’t just matter what’s presented, it matters where (it’s presented).”
Speaking to reporters Tuesday morning in Regina, Eyre declined to comment on calls for her resignation and instead reiterated a statement issued Monday in which she committed to ensuring treaty education is taught in every school in the province.
“I regret any confusion over that,” Eyre said, referring to her comments in the legislature. “I certainly regret referencing my son. He is 12 and, as I mentioned yesterday, I simply don’t want to draw him in any further.”
In the statement released Monday, Eyre said the Saskatchewan government “was the first in Canada to implement treaty education and that she “100 per cent” supports “treaty education taught in every school in Saskatchewan, and I want to build on that foundation.”
Saskatchewan Liberal Leader Tara Jijian also called on Eyre to resign, releasing a statement saying the education minister has “lost the trust we all so desperately need and want for our kids, and when a minister loses that, resignation is the right thing to do.”
Sask. Party leadership candidate Scott Moe, whose campaign Eyre has endorsed, issued a statement saying the minister “will have the opportunity to discuss and clarify the intent of her statements made around treaty education in our classrooms.
“I believe that the history of our province includes the contributions of First Nations communities and people. We can only be stronger as a province as we continue to learn and gain an understanding of our past,” Moe’s statement read.
The Saskatchewan NDP’s education critic, meanwhile, called on Eyre to explain herself and apologize after attempting to use her apparent misrepresentation of the homework assignment as justification for changing the curriculum.
“I think the minister really eroded trust, has shown some really poor judgment with regard to this issue,” Carla Beck, the MLA for Regina Lakeview, told Postmedia News on Monday.
James said she was surprised how many people had discovered and signed the petition, but admitted she does not have the political expertise to know if it will be effective.
“I think it’s really important that we stand up, though, and say that understanding and commitment to treaty education in an integrated way is not optional, and is really valuable.”
It’s really important that we .... say that understanding and commitment to treaty education in an integrated way is not optional.