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.

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

An SUV sits where it crashed through the front window of the 2:18 Run store in Fairfield Plaza, after the driver appeared to lose control on Monday afternoon. (Photo by Phil Nicholls)
Driver crashes through front window of Victoria running store in Fairfield

Phil Nicholls of 2:18 Run said crash sounded like an earthquake at first

Processed sewage is still being deposited at the Hartland landfill rather than sent as biosolids to a Richmond cement plant. (Black Press Media file photo)
Biosolids at Hartland still being placed on landfill in Saanich

Richmond cement plant up and running, but CRD end product not suitable for purpose

The Greater Victoria Harbour Authority is calling on Transport Canada to rescind its ban to Feb. 28, 2022 on cruise ship stops in Canada, to allow planning to begin in advance of a reopening of the cruise industry next year.
Greater Victoria Harbour Authority seeks end to federal ban on cruise ship stops in Canada

Greater Victoria Harbour Authority CEO hopes cruises will resume by 2022

Seismic upgrading and expansion work at Victoria High School is about a year behind due to pandemic-related factors, the Greater Victoria School District announced. (Photo by Cole Descoteau)
Victoria High School seismic work, expansion a year behind schedule

Greater Victoria School District now targeting September 2023 for reopening of historic school

Elk Lake Drive area resident Michael Blayney protests a proposed multi-building development for his Royal Oak neighbourhood, outside Saanich municipal hall on Monday (June 14). (Photo by Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Demonstrators protest 11-storey development on Elk Lake Drive in Saanich

Saanich locals gather at municipal hall to protest development, public hearing goes Tuesday

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick, assistant deputy speaker at the B.C. legislature, presides over committee discussions. The legislature is completing its delayed spring session this week, with most MLAs participating by video conference. (Hansard TV)
B.C.’s daily COVID-19 infections dip below 100 over weekend

Only 68 new cases recorded Monday, four additional deaths

A 30x40 ft boat/car shop in the Little River area near Wilkinson Road was fully involved by the time firefighters arrived on scene. Photo by Comox Fire Rescue
Comox firefighters battle ‘showy’ shop fire Saturday night

Smoke could be seen throughout the Comox Valley

Port Hardy council has agreed to cancel Canada Day celebrations in wake of the discovery of the remains of 215 children being found on the grounds of a former residential school. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Port Hardy cancels Canada Day celebrations in wake of Kamloops mass grave site revelation

Coun. Treena Smith made the motion for the chamber to not host Canada Day celebrations this year

Gabriola Island artist Sheila Norgate is promoting the Digital Innovation Group’s art impact survey. (File photo)
Vancouver Island artists get behind regional arts impact study

Artists urged to use their stature to help put arts and culture super-region on the map

Darren Campbell’s truck (pictured) was stolen when he stopped to check on a car in a ditch on Cowichan Bay Road on Monday morning. (Facebook photo)
Vancouver Island Good Samaritan’s truck stolen in nasty trick

‘Try to be a Good Samaritan and my $20,000 truck gets stolen right under my nose’

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

Creative handmade signs abound at the June 13 Tofino rally for old growth trees. (Nora O’Malley photo)
VIDEO: Tofino stands in solidarity for Fairy Creek Blockades

Over 150 supporters attend rally hosted by Friends of Clayoquot Sound

Most Read