School District 52 trustees were at odds over a potential new Indigenous persons seat on the board at the meeting on Jan. 18. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

School District 52 trustees were at odds over a potential new Indigenous persons seat on the board at the meeting on Jan. 18. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)

Prince Rupert SD 52 trustees at odds over selected Indigenous seat

Position should be elected, not selected, said Trustee Last

School District 52 board members were at odds on implementing a permanent indigenous board member seat, when discussions arose on Jan. 18.

During the first SD 52 meeting of the new year, board members discussed a BC Teachers Federation (BCTF) letter to the Ministry of Education regarding designated trustee seats for Indigenous persons.

While three trustees were in support of the idea, Tina Last spoke up with concerns for proper processes and the importance of democratic elections.

“I have very strong feelings about the intent. On its surface, yes you want to have more participation by Indigenous people — but I have very, very strong feelings about designating seats and the reason for that is: an election is democracy at its fullest,” Last said.

However, not all members agreed with Last opposing the idea of reserved places on a democratically elected board.

“I love the idea of having an Indigenous trustee position open on the board,” Kristy Maier, SD 52 trustee, said.

Louisa Sanchez and James Horne joined in support of the designated Indigenous seat. Trustee Bart Kuntz said he saw both sides of the picture but he was “not 100 per cent sure”.

School board trustees are voted into the positions after being nominated by members of the public, at the same time municipal elections are held for mayor and council offices.

“I don’t want to mess with that. I don’t think it should be messed with,” said the veteran trustee with more than 20 years of experience on the board.

“If it’s an election, whether for school board, MLA, MP, what have you is the people who put their name up there for scrutiny — that is an election. I don’t think anybody should get a seat based on anything [else],” Last said.

Sanchez said she understood where Last was coming from, but still agreed to put her own full support behind the initiative.

“The reason I’m saying that is we have 60 per cent Aboriginal students in our district,” Sanchez said. “I feel strongly that we should have an Aboriginal representative on our board, I really believe it’s good … because they are aware of the culture and they might be able to bring [awareness to] some of the subjects that we might take for granted,” Sanchez said.

Last responded that there is already Indigenous representation on the board with chairperson Kate Toye chair of the board, Janet Beil and herself all having Indigenous heritage.

“Because we don’t perhaps vocalize our heritage doesn’t mean we don’t have a perspective that would have that frame of reference. So, I think we also need to be careful of saying we don’t have representation on the board, because we do,” Last said.

No conclusion was reached at the meeting and the matter was tabled for a future date.

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Norman Galimski | Journalist
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