This week the governments of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories launched a "first of its kind" curriculum, the focus of which is Canada's discredited Indian Residential School System. Beginning this fall, Nunavut and the NWT will dedicate 25 classroom hours to a consideration of Canada's century-long church and state effort to assimilate Inuit, Métis and First Nation children. The point of this education exercise, in my view, is neither to demonize the workers of the church and government, nor to suggest that Canadians toss themselves into a sea of guilt. Both are useless, even counter-productive. Instead, I look forward to Canadians learning this piece of Canadian history in its full human complexity, perhaps pondering the question "is forced assimilation a good thing?"
It's been five months since a unanimous vote by the government to build a new school in Attiwapiskat. This was Shannen's school. To them, it wasn't the government or the politicians who had made this school a reality, it was Shannen Koostachin. She was one of their own. She was their voice. After 13 long years of heartache and struggle, the community was finally getting a real grade school.