The Greater Victoria School District continues to face backlash over its wording and approach to Indigenous learners in its 2021-2022 budget talks. (Black Press Media file photo)

The Greater Victoria School District continues to face backlash over its wording and approach to Indigenous learners in its 2021-2022 budget talks. (Black Press Media file photo)

School district’s approach to Indigenous learners leaves Victoria teachers ‘disgusted’

Backlash grows over ‘pattern of colonial thinking permeating the leadership’

“I am writing to express our disgust,” a letter from the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association (GVTA) to SD61 read this week.

The association is among a group of community members infuriated over the school district’s wording and approach to Indigenous students throughout its budget process.

Two weeks ago, the district came under fire when a survey it released to get public feedback on its proposed budget and a then $7 million deficit included a question asking participants to rank the importance of Indigenous learners’ success against that of non-Indigenous students. The district removed the question, later calling it inappropriate and assuring the community the data from that question wouldn’t be used.

READ ALSO: SD61 budget survey question ranks Indigenous learners’ success against others

But on Monday, some parents and teachers were left feeling like the district still didn’t understand after a slide presented at the school board meeting suggested Indigenous learners’ success couldn’t be found in music programs. Under the bullet of reconciliation the slide asked “Will core bands, strings or choir improve the Indigenous completion rates?” and “Do Indigenous students participate in band?”

Music programs are one of many things on the budget’s chopping block and have received the most public attention. After initially suggesting an approximately $1.5 million cut to them, the board later voted to retain $482,000 of that to keep Grade 6 to 8 band alive.

READ ALSO: SD61’s proposed $7 million cuts threaten equity and inclusion, say parents, teachers

Some parents and the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association were infuriated by a district presentation May 10, which they see as proof of how out of touch the district is with Indigenous people. (Screenshot)

Carey Newman is a parent and multi-disciplinary Indigenous artist who says music permeates the lives and culture of Indigenous people. His daughter started playing violin in the district’s elementary strings program this year and absolutely fell in love with it.

“This idea that Indigenous students don’t somehow benefit from it is an example of the paternalistic colonial viewpoint toward Indigenous people,” he said.

To him, the suggestion is indicative that the district doesn’t have adequate Indigenous representation.

The GVTA’s letter noted, “there is a pattern of colonial thinking permeating the leadership of the (Greater Victoria School District) and tainting the budget process.”

The district has repeatedly said the proposed budget is intended to invest in Indigenous students – who have significantly lower rates of completion than non-Indigenous students – through a greater focus on literacy. The plan is to cut the reading recovery program, which aided Grade 1 students, and put those resources into literacy supports for kindergarten to Grade 5 students instead. In total, the district said $2.1 million in funding will go to Indigenous students, although it hasn’t specified how.

But Newman said music and arts should be treated as just as important as literacy, and by weighing Indigenous students’ success against music programs, the district is creating a false parallel and opportunity for blame.

“It’s a divide and conquer strategy. It pits arts against Indigenous learners under a bullet point of reconciliation,” he said. Reconciliation, he explained, isn’t about reducing access and support for everyone until they face the same structural barriers as Indigenous people.

The GVTA also said it believes the district is working “under the guise of reconciliation.”

“To use Indigenous students to justify your cuts to music and other programming is racist and reprehensible,” the association wrote.

SD61 didn’t respond to an interview request.

The board is scheduled to vote on whether to pass the proposed budget on May 17. It has until the end of June to submit a completed version to the province.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

READ ALSO: Gorge skull fragment could bring closure to one Greater Victoria missing person case


Do you have a story tip? Email: jane.skrypnek@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Indigenoussd61

Just Posted

Christina Lake Fire Department’s Chief Joe Geary eyes the camera from behind the wheel of the department’s 40-year-old bush truck. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Christina Lake FD needs new equipment, upgrades, prompting loan by RDKB

It’s not whether the department needs the equipment, it’s how voters will pay for it, says Regional District

The pilot of this single-engine propeller plane was unhurt after crash-landing in a Como Road orchard Friday, June 18. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Plane crash lands into Grand Forks orchard, pilot injured

RCMP have secured the crash site, pending investigation by Transport Canada

Students at Creston Valley Secondary School put together an art installation of a replica residential school room. (Photo by Kelsey Yates)
Creston students create art installation of residential school room

The replica was decorated with a small bed, school uniform, and notes written with pleas for help

Greenwood Elementary’s Nelson Thompson (Grade 5) and Lincoln Simmonds (Grade 6) take a fun-filled turn on the swing at Lions Park Thursday, June 17. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
IN PHOTOGRAPHS: ‘This is yours now,’ Greenwood Mayor tells children at playground opening

The opening ceremony at Lions Park was attended by kids from Greenwood Elementary Thursday, June 17

Prince Charles Secondary School
School District 8 votes in favour of name change for Secondary School in Creston

In an act of reconciliation, a new name will be chosen for Prince Charles Secondary School

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 – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

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

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

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

Most Read