LEFT: Krista Macinnis, with a red handprint across her face that symbolizes the silencing of First Nations people, displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
RIGHT: Abbotsford School District Kevin Godden says the district takes responsibility for the harm the assignment caused.

Abbotsford school district must make amends for harmful residential school assignment: superintendent

‘The first step is to unreservedly apologize for the harm … caused to our community’: Kevin Godden

Abbotsford School District superintendent Kevin Godden has promised that the district will work to fix the damage caused by a school assignment in which students were asked to list the positive aspects of residential schools.

In a letter to parents posted Friday on the district’s website, Godden writes, “We take responsibility for the impact of our actions and commit to repairing the harm we have caused.”

On Wednesday, Krista Macinnis posted online about her child’s school assignment in which a W.A. Fraser Middle School teacher asked students to Google “positive experiences with residential schools” and write five different good things about such schools.

The assignment generated waves of outrage both locally and well beyond Abbotsford.

Macinnis, who is of Cree and Blackfoot heritage, said the assignment obscured the true horrors of, and systemic harms caused by, the residential school system. She compared the assignment to asking someone to list five positive things about slavery or Nazism.

RELATED: Abbotsford mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

“As a First Nations person, I understand that we all have our own voice about the things that happened there,” she told The News. “Unfortunately, I don’t think that this is something that should be taught in a classroom environment, when it’s not the true horrors and events of residential schools.”

Godden, in his letter to parents, apologized and said the assignment was a setback to the district’s efforts to incorporate Indigenous perspectives into classrooms.

“I want to assure you of our commitment to appropriately respond to situations of this nature and to reaffirm our commitment to creating equitable and inclusive spaces for our students and staff. The first step is to unreservedly apologize for the harm it has caused to our community, and in particular to members of our Indigenous community, and to our district aspirations to be leaders in our nation’s journey of truth and reconciliation.”

Godden pointed to an agreement between the district, Ministry of Education and Indigenous community that led to stronger relationships with local First Nations, and provided more opportunities for teachers to learn about ways to incorporate “activities related to truth and reconciliation” in classrooms.

In the letter, Godden also urged parents to talk to their children about the issue.

“During times like this, our children may need the support of caring adults to help them process the discourse related to this event. I encourage all families to have conversations at home about these important topics, including the intergenerational trauma and impacts of residential schools.”

He also pointed to mental health support for children in and out of school.

“This has been a humbling experience for all of us,” Godden wrote. “As a school district, we will redouble our efforts to interrupt and disrupt racism and all forms of discrimination, and remain committed to revealing and correcting miseducation related to our Indigenous peoples. We will work with our Indigenous community elders to move forward together in a manner that honours each of our children and our common humanity.”

The letter doesn’t address any specifics related to the teacher involved in the assignment.

READ THE FULL LETTER

-with files from Vikki Hopes

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
tolsen@abbynews.com


@ty_olsen
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Holger Schwichtenberg and his son Philip talk in the barn of the 150-acre Schwichtenberg farm. This farm is one of many throughout B.C. that support more than 12,500 jobs across the province in the dairy industry. (Contributed Photo/B.C. Dairy Association)
Agassiz dairy farm a model of care for environment, animals, and family

Farm is part of a dairy sector centred in the Fraser Valley, supporting 12,500 jobs province-wide

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Woman’s 100-km birthday marathon from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

The Great Gordini puts on a magic show for an avid audience during the first Storytime in the Park in this 2019 photo. (Grace Kennedy/The Observer)
Storytime in the Park returns this summer

Day 1 registration is on June 30

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

(file)
Pedestrian hit by police vehicle in Langley

Injuries described as serious, requiring surgery

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

Most Read