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

Seafest is underway with a sunfest theme from June 11 to 13 in Prince Rupert. Alex Hoogendorn vice president of Prince Rupert Special Events is creating sunny times making feature for the decorating contest with his son Caleb Hoogendorn on June 4. (K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Seafest 44 plans a sunfest June 11 to 13 in Prince Rupert

All events in festival are COVID-19 safe, social distancing and health protocols approved by N.H.A.

Relay for Life will be held virtually on June 12. Donations and registered teams are decreased in numbers this year, but there is still time to register. Cancer survivors, Isaac Mastroianni and his dad Mark Mastroianni, wear their Canadian Cancer Society Relay for Life survivors shirts. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
A lifeline for many, Relay for Life now needs community support

Prince Rupert is one of just four cities in B.C. with teams registered the June 12 event

Coho is one of many fish species that will benefit from a project to assess fish passage in the Falls River Watershed and offer options for improved connectivity and habitat restoration. The project will be delivered with funding from the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program announced on June 8. (Photo: supplied by FWCP, istock, M.Haring)
More than $2.1 million for Northcoast fish and wildlife projects

Falls River Watershed SE of Prince Rupert to have fish passage and habitat study

Taylor Bachrach, NDP MP for Skeena-Bulkley Valley addresses Parliament on June 7, in call for the federal government to stop fighting Indigenous children in court and to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action. (Image: supplied from Facebook)
NDP motion calling for immediate reconciliation action passes

Skeena-Bulkley MP Taylor Bachrach addresses federal Parliament

Salmon Arm ICBC Service centre. Lachlan Labere/ Salmon Arm Observer
Backlog: New drivers travel from as far as Prince Rupert for road test in Salmon Arm

Salmon Arm man unable to get his road test until late November in Kelowna

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

Most Read