Alberta Politics
Alberta Teachers Association Indigenous education staff officer Melissa Purcell (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Handpicked UCP advisors call for mention of residential schools to be erased from primary grades’ social studies curriculum

Posted on October 22, 2020, 1:12 am
9 mins

A recommendation by Alberta Premier Jason Kenney’s handpicked curriculum advisors to strip all mention of residential schools from the province’s Kindergarten-to-Grade 4 curriculum “will perpetuate systemic racism through whitewashing,” says Melissa Purcell, the Alberta Teachers Association’s staff officer for Indigenous education.

“The Indian Residential School system was created to erase the cultures, histories, languages, and perspectives of Indigenous peoples within Canada, and these recommendations perpetuate that erasure,” Ms. Purcell said in a statement from the ATA yesterday. “These recommendations cannot be taken seriously and must be rejected outright.”

ATA President Jason Schilling (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

It’s no wonder Mr. Kenney and his education minister, Adriana LaGrange, pulled the plug on their agreement with the ATA to work together on changes to the curriculum. As ATA President Jason Schilling said in the same news release, “Teachers would not support this direction for curriculum.”

Mr. Kenney’s United Conservative Party is surely the most ideologically dogmatic government in Canadian history since Social Credit was elected in Alberta in 1935. As such, like the Trump Administration in the United States the UCP admires and imitates, it wants to keep real experts as far as possible from its ideological decisions.

It is ironic but hardly surprising that the UCP, vowing to deliver “objective understanding” and information “without bias,” falsely accused the previous NDP government of planning to sneak ideology into the curriculum review that began when the Progressive Conservatives were still in power.

So when the ATA complains the recommendations leaked to the CBC and published yesterday morning are “regressive and inappropriate, and highlight the critical problem of cutting teachers out of the curriculum process,” it needs to be understood that from the government’s perspective this is a feature, not a bug.

When it comes to devising and revising curriculum, the last people Mr. Kenney and Ms. LaGrange want involved are genuine experts who know what they’re talking about. As Mr. Schilling observed, “teachers are experts in curriculum; they understand the readiness of young students for different pieces of content and they understand what it means to bring curriculum to life in the classroom.”

Mr. Schilling noted in the release that he has requested a meeting with the minister on the government’s current curriculum review but has been rebuffed.

“I am calling for the minister to unequivocally reject these proposals and to immediately bring teachers back to the table on curriculum development,” Mr. Schilling said.

CBC Reporter Janet French (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Actual experts interviewed by the CBC’s Janet French were appalled, calling the changes “regressive, racist, unsupported by research,” “embarrassing,” and likely to make Alberta’s education system “a laughingstock.”

In her exposé of the latest development in the UCP’s plan to drag public elementary education back into the 1950s, Ms. French noted that the eight male “subject matter experts” thrust into the review last summer included controversial historian Christian Champion, a former member of the premier’s staff when Mr. Kenney was a member of Stephen Harper’s federal cabinet.

Dr. Champion holds views that it would be fair to describe as eccentric in the early 21st Century, dismissing First Nations history as “an ongoing fad,” and calling reconciliation training “agitprop.”

While Ms. LaGrange, her press secretary, and even the opinionated Dr. Champion refused to be interviewed by the CBC, it is hard to believe given his past pronouncements that the author of numerous screeds in right-wing publications didn’t play a significant role in the recommendations including requiring young children to memorize long lists of names and dates, not to mention Bible verses about the creation story.

Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange (Photo: Facebook).

Alberta’s Grade 4 curriculum, Dr. Champion has claimed, has the goal of “turning nine-year-olds into little SJWs” — the initials that signify social justice warriors, a term almost exclusively used sarcastically and pejoratively in alt-right circles.

When Dr. Champion’s views came to light in August, UCP issues managers were soon tweeting that he has a PhD in history, and therefore was a curriculum expert.

However, as noted by Dr. Carla Peck, who studies social studies curriculum at the University of Alberta, “while Dr. Champion does have a PhD in history, I cannot find any evidence that he has any qualifications in K-12 teaching, learning, curriculum, assessment, or pedagogy.”

According to the ATA, neither Dr. Champion nor William French, another of the 11th hour advisory appointments by the Kenney Government who are behind the recommendations exposed by Ms. French’s report, are experts in curriculum. “Their backgrounds don’t make them suitable for this work.”

Christian Champion, “social studies curriculum advisor” and former member of Jason Kenney’s staff in Ottawa (Photo: Twitter, original source unknown).

The ATA has previously called for the dismissal of Dr. Champion “based on his controversial views about curriculum and residential schools.”

This afternoon, apparently stung by the backlash prompted by the CBC report, Ms. LaGrange’s press secretary Colin Aitchison was insisting via Twitter “this is solely advice for consideration.”

This seems unlikely, however. Mr. Kenney is the premier and everything he has done on the education file since seeking the leadership of Alberta’s conservatives suggests he is determined to return primary education to the standards of the 1950s.

On a personal note, I entered public school in Western Canada in 1958. The proposals revealed yesterday by the CBC seem remarkably like the Eurocentric and often racist claptrap I was taught as fact in social studies.

Times have changed, whether the UCP likes it or not. There is no excuse for this to continue in the 21st Century.

COVID-19 touches down in Alberta Legislature

COVID-19 has touched down in the Alberta Legislature.

Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard (Photo: Facebook).

Newly appointed Municipal Affairs Minister Tracy Allard, UCP MLA for Grande Prairie, has tested positive for the virus and was reported yesterday to be at home in self-isolation.

At least five other UCP MLAs who were in contact with Ms. Allard last week, the most prominent being Premier Kenney, are said to be in self-imposed isolation. The others are Transportation Minister Ric McIver, Airdrie MLA Angela Pitt, Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie and Lethbridge-East MLA Nathan Neudorff.

This doesn’t yet count as an official outbreak. It will take another positive test from among Ms. Allard’s cohort at the Legislature for that status to be achieved.

15 Comments to: Handpicked UCP advisors call for mention of residential schools to be erased from primary grades’ social studies curriculum

  1. Dave

    October 22nd, 2020

    I suspect part of the purpose behind the curriculum proposals, perhaps a big part, is to try not to talk about the role of religous institutions in residential schools.

    While residential schools are gone now, the religous institutions remain. Some of their more fervent and devout members here are in key leadership positions in the UCP government. I suspect it is an embarassing and touchy issue for them in particular.

    The COVID UCP outbreak must also be a tad embarassing, right after the Premier went to some effort to indicate things were actually still under control despite some indications to the contrary and so he planned to shift his focus back to other things. As we have all experienced to some degree or another, COVID has disrupted everything.

    Well hopefully this outbreak does not become as extensive as that one at the White House and those that are infected, do not become too ill and recover soon.

    • Jimmy

      October 22nd, 2020

      Regarding the fervent and devout members of the the religious institution alluded to who currently hold key UCP positions. This is the same institution whose 2020 publication ‘Laudato Si’ urged Catholics to stop investing in fossil fuels and other businesses whose work is environmentally detrimental. Its readers were urged to monitor mining companies who may cause environmental damage.

      This begs some questions. Should these provincial politicians acknowledge Papal authority and infallibility and make personal confessions and requests for penance? Or should they ensure that Catholicism and the Pope are investigated by the war room and exposed as possible foreign funded green urban militants? In the case of the former at least on may need to book an appointment with a lengthy time allocation

      Coutts & Co, personal bankers to Queen Elizabeth 11 and all of the Royal Family indicated it will stop investing in oil sands, thermal coal extraction, and will reduce the carbon intensity of its’ investments 25% by the end of 2021.

      The war room has some substantial targets to set its sights on.

    • Mike in Edmonton

      October 22nd, 2020

      At least ol’ Jason’s practicing the same personal responsibility that he preaches. I wonder if he’ll come to prefer working from home?

    • David Climenhaga

      October 22nd, 2020

      Keith: I was taught (circa Grade 7) that “the White Man’s Burden” was a real thing, a good thing, and something that needed to be carried on by my generation. It was utter racist tripe, unsupported by evidence of any kind and spoken without any real consideration of the historical record. While not technically part of the formal curriculum, I’m sure, this kind of extemporaneous bloviation by a social studies teacher was encouraged and abetted by both the biased material in the curriculum of the day and the blank spots in it. Regardless, given what we know now, the accurate historical record, the UCP Government’s attempt to renew the whitewash is nothing but revisionism, akin to Holocaust denial. DJC

  2. Abs

    October 22nd, 2020

    Here’s a precautionary lesson for governments that try to rewrite history.


    “Efforts to fight against textbook screening will become all the more necessary toward the next century, in order for tomorrow’s children to be able to nurture their own thinking,” she said.


    ““Textbook screening should be banned in a democratic country,″ he said. “The government should trust the students and teachers more.″


    Maybe UCP government members should get out in the real world a little more, once they’re over the “kind of flu”. Maybe they should visit northeast Calgary, where houses are falling apart from hail damage. B.C.’s leaky condos will have nothing on this, once winter damages homes to the point of no return. Government is doing nothing to procure siding and shingles, which are out of stock entirely in western Canada, and facing long backorders from the rest of Canada and U.S. These extreme shortages are beyond the power of individual construction companies to resolve. This government is doing nothing to look after its citizens in the here and now, but wastes time and money tilting at ideological windmills, and blue sky schemes.

    In fact, one wonders if there is a clue to this government’s behavior in the proposed curriculum changes. If elementary school children are to be taught that non-white Canadians are predominantly Christian, is it because the opposite is true? Do Christians only help other Christians? What about white non-Christians? What about those people in northeast Calgary?

    Government in Canada is supposed to be a democracy, where all citizens have a vote and representation. Alberta has taken a sharp right turn under Kenney. It will not end well.

  3. Bruce Turton

    October 22nd, 2020

    Albert Einstein: “The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits”.
    This whole ‘exercise’ is ‘training children’ leaves out any conceptual investigation of the future into which they will be thrust, despite the whims and fantasies of the current government coterie of ‘geniuses’. Some schools have seen fit to teach kids about growing food which is very 1950’s and useful. Maybe, if we really need to be retrograde, learning about darning and otherwise fixing clothing would actually prove useful! It might even be useful for more people to become acquainted with the precautionary principle (about the probabilities that climate change will bring) which might even help to make education much more fundamental rather than memorizing the capital cities of 10 provinces, 3 territories, 50 states, and all the countries on the world map that are red [thus part of the “empire” – I too got all that sort of ‘education’]!

  4. pogo

    October 22nd, 2020

    Now, in happier times, I would make some fun. These are not happy times. This is their onslaught! Jason doesn’t acknowledge he’s the leader of some sort of delusional Serbian style Alberta defense league, but he is. He most certainly isn’t an Orban. Or even an Erdogan. MBS? In his dream state! Mad Matt Wolf is a cheap suit Ezra Levant and the entire UCP caucus couldn’t balance themselves on two legs let alone a provincial cheque book! Send these weak MFs to the green bin!

  5. Bret Larson

    October 22nd, 2020

    Ill see your three experts and bid five extra experts.

    Course, defining “history” is the main problem with any “public” education system.

  6. karl roth

    October 22nd, 2020

    dad blasted radical marxist/leftist/fascist teachers brainwashing our children

    how are in world are we to establish and keep our harperite, republican inspired wet dream of government and society here in Alberta as an exemplar and beachhead for the rest of Canada unless correct thinking and attitudes are instilled in our youth ?
    the younger we start them the better

    don’t need none of your stinken unionist, leftist factual curriculum and bad attitude
    professionals bah !
    who needs em ?
    we have our own facts, our own curriculum and our own correct attitude . . . . you better believe it !

    whitey uber alles

    sarCasm lol
    (that was fun)

  7. Mike in Edmonton

    October 22nd, 2020

    Fascinating that, shortly after Ms French’s scoop was published, the comments section was shut down within hours, doubtless by the sheer number of responses. Criticism of the UCP “recommendations” was running about 20-1 versus the ConTroll supporters.

    Take heart, friends! There’s hope for our province yet.

  8. Just Me

    October 22nd, 2020

    This is just the first step in the rehabilitation of John A. MacDonald.

    This is, in a bizarre way, the Angry Midget is playing his Captain Canada role.

    He’s going to defend MacDonald and denounce his critics, including the FNs.

    But aren’t those the same FNs who Kenney said going to be leading the new and stronger Alberta economy?

    In the end, the only thing Ken-Doh! will get is MacDonald’s severed bronze head.

  9. tom

    October 22nd, 2020

    I’m old enough to remember the Jim Keegstra affair and the Kenney government’s curriculum proposal re: residential schools is not an improvement.


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