NDP wants Eyre to apol­o­gize for ‘poor judg­ment’

Min­is­ter sorry she dis­cussed her son’s homework in a pub­lic fo­rum

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - ALEX MACPHER­SON

Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Bron­wyn Eyre needs to ex­plain her­self and apol­o­gize af­ter at­tempt­ing to use her ap­par­ent mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion of a sin­gle Grade 8 homework as­sign­ment as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for chang­ing parts of the pro­vin­cial cur­ricu­lum, says the Saskatchewan NDP’s ed­u­ca­tion critic.

In a Nov. 1 speech to the leg­isla­tive as­sem­bly, Eyre said that as “back­ground” for a Grade 8 work­sheet as­sign­ment brought home by her son, he’d copied from the class­room board “the fol­low­ing facts which were pre­sented as fact: That Euro­peans and Euro­pean set­tlers were colo­nial­ists, pil­lagers of the land who knew only buy­ing and sell­ing and didn’t re­spect Mother Earth.”

A copy of the French-lan­guage work­sheet as­sign­ment and class notes ob­tained by the Saskatoon StarPhoenix do not use words that could be trans­lated as “colo­nial­ists” or “pil­lagers.” In­stead, stu­dents are asked to pro­vide per­spec­tives on how Indige­nous and non-Indige­nous peo­ple ap­pre­ci­ate the land dif­fer­ently.

“I think the min­is­ter really eroded trust, has shown some really poor judg­ment with re­gard to this is­sue,” NDP ed­u­ca­tion critic Carla Beck said Mon­day in a tele­phone in­ter­view.

In a state­ment on Mon­day, Eyre apol­o­gized for dis­cussing her son’s homework in a pub­lic fo­rum.

Eyre, in the state­ment, said that while she did not want to weigh in on an­other stu­dent’s in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the work, she would not dis­cuss her son “in an ed­u­ca­tional con­text in the fu­ture.

“Our gov­ern­ment was the first in Canada to im­ple­ment treaty ed­u­ca­tion,” Eyre said in the state­ment. “I 100 per cent sup­port treaty ed­u­ca­tion taught in ev­ery school in Saskatchewan, and I want to build on that foun­da­tion.

“As (Fed­er­a­tion of Sov­er­eign Indige­nous Na­tions) Chief Bobby Cameron said last week fol­low­ing a dis­cus­sion with me: ‘We need to work to­gether … We had a good con­ver­sa­tion. What (Eyre) meant was maybe we need to look at dif­fer­ent av­enues or ap­proaches to teach­ing treaty. Her stance is that teach­ing treaty has to con­tinue.’”

A mother whose child is in the same Grade 8 class as Eyre’s son ac­knowl­edged that in­for­ma­tion can get lost in trans­la­tion but said her read­ing of the homework as­sign­ment shows it to be fair, ac­cu­rate and non-judg­men­tal. The mother, who spoke with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix on the con­di­tion of anonymity to pro­tect her child’s iden­tity, said the school has done a con­sis­tently good job of pre­sent­ing a com­plex is­sue in a “thought­ful” and “re­spect­ful” man­ner.

Eyre, the Stone­bridge-Dakota MLA, has pre­vi­ously de­fended her com­ments, ar­gu­ing that she was only sug­gest­ing the prov­ince should ex­am­ine the “in­fu­sion” of Indige­nous con­tent in all sub­ject ar­eas rather than have a sin­gle class. Indige­nous ed­u­ca­tion, Eyre said last week, “is cer­tainly broadly and ex­ten­sively in­fused be­yond treaty ed­u­ca­tion, and … that’s some­thing we should talk about.”

In­fu­sion — which, ac­cord­ing to the min­is­ter, means in­cor­po­rat­ing a sub­ject into other classes al­ready be­ing taught rather than in­tro­duc­ing an en­tirely new class — has “come to be more the norm in re­cent years.”

She said the prov­ince is at a bit of a cross­roads in how it is “de­vel­op­ing cur­ricu­lum” and that she might want to dis­cuss hav­ing a spe­cific course on Indige­nous his­tory in high school “as op­posed to maybe more in­fu­sion.”

Beck said Eyre should have ad­dressed any con­cerns she had with her son’s teacher and the school prin­ci­pal, rather than “sin­gle out” the teacher in the leg­isla­tive as­sem­bly in a speech aimed at chang­ing ed­u­ca­tion cur­ricu­lum.

The Fed­er­a­tion of Sov­er­eign Indige­nous Na­tions and the Saskatchewan Teach­ers Fed­er­a­tion (STF) have both de­fended treaty ed­u­ca­tion, with the lat­ter group say­ing Eyre’s com­ments “could serve to di­vide com­mu­ni­ties and cre­ate un­safe space for Saskatchewan teach­ers and stu­dents.”

Saskatchewan’s Grade 8 so­cial stud­ies cur­ricu­lum asks stu­dents to “an­a­lyze the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the tra­di­tional Abo­rig­i­nal con­cept of land … and the con­tem­po­rary Western Euro­pean no­tion of land through the cen­turies.”

STF pres­i­dent Pa­trick Maze said Mon­day that Eyre’s com­ments “didn’t help” the al­readytense re­la­tion­ship be­tween his or­ga­ni­za­tion and the gov­ern­ment, which has been strained by re­cent bud­get cuts. At the same time, he con­tin­ued, re­pair­ing that re­la­tion­ship is vi­tal.

Saskatchewan, in 2007, was the first prov­ince in Canada to man­date stu­dents learn­ing about treaty ed­u­ca­tion and a K-12 con­tin­uum for treaty ed­u­ca­tion was put in place.

Beck said that while chil­dren’s in­ter­pre­ta­tions of homework can vary, Eyre’s as­sess­ment of it is not rea­son­able, and her use of the in­ci­dent as a po­lit­i­cal tool is both “dis­ap­point­ing and reck­less.” It has dam­aged the min­is­ter’s cred­i­bil­ity, she said, urg­ing an apol­ogy from Eyre.

“I think she does have a lot to ac­count for,” Beck said. “Trust once bro­ken is very hard to re­gain.”


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