CANMORE – The Canadian Rockies Public Schools will recognize the upcoming National Day for Truth and Reconciliation later this month and also use it as an educational opportunity for students.
The school board approved the decision at a special board meeting to acknowledge the federally statutory holiday – which the province has yet to commit to – and it will feature an educational component for students on Sept. 29.
“It is a teachable moment, which is extremely valuable and we don’t want to lose that in this,” CRPS superintendent Chris MacPhee said at the meeting. “We’ve had that challenge in the past when it has come to Remembrance Day and our veterans. We engaged in that conversation and they agreed and they truly support an educational piece around this and we’re all on the same page.”
The day will see public schools for CRPS be closed on Sept. 30, but a priority will be given to the educational aspect on the afternoon of Sept. 29, MacPhee said after consulting with the elder advisory committee.
“It was extremely valuable to meet with our elders. … It was a wonderful conversation, not only about the 30th, but also what the 29th and educational components could look like.”
MacPhee said the school division regularly teaches Indigenous history in the curriculum and the 29th will see elders attend, a teepee raised at Exshaw School and additional aspects planned.
“The intent and the outcome are not necessarily aligned with a day off, so I think without this educational component this has no merit in my mind,” Luke Sunderland, a trustee, said. “It won’t be aligned in what we’re trying to get to and what’s created to get to the outcome. I’m supportive because you asked the right people and there’s an educational component to it.”
MacPhee said it would slightly impact the mandated instructional minutes that is decided by Alberta Education. He noted due to the two-week March Break for the school division, it gives them little flexibility for instructional minutes and hours.
He noted it will likely impact about two to five minutes a day of instruction and CRPS administration will be working with principals to fit it into the system. It would also slightly impact buses, which may be challenging for schools where there are exchanges.
“We need to add time on to our day. That’s the only way we can do it,” MacPhee said. “We can’t substitute it for another day or we may run into issues with the collective agreement and things we’ve agreed to with our local ATA (Alberta’s Teachers Association).
“Some of our family’s have not accounted for financially and getting childcare, which as we know in the valley is a big challenge. We’re aware of it and we still feel strongly in the face of that challenge this recommendation should still be coming to the board.”
The commemorative holiday was one of the 94 calls to action that came from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015 to help honour survivors from the residential school system and commemorate one of the darkest moments in Canadian history.
“CRPS will stand beside our neighbouring Stoney Nation in aligning with our educational partners as well as the national day for Truth and Reconciliation to honour survivors and families and communities,” MacPhee said.