Quebec’s new history curriculum short on Inuit perspectives: KI

“Our students benefit directly from a history program that incorporates Indigenous worldview”

Kativik Ilisarniliriniq’s head office in Kuujjuaq. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)

By SARAH ROGERS

Nunavik’s school board, Kativik Ilisarniliriniq, wants more Inuit content and more Inuit perspectives included in Quebec’s high school history textbooks.

Recent revisions to the province’s curriculum, introduced by a previous Quebec government, have sparked a debate over how inclusive its curriculum is for Indigenous peoples and other minorities.

Kativik Ilisarniliriniq offered comments to the ministry of education on what it hoped to see included in that curriculum.

But the school board said it was consulted only at the last minute and many of its suggestions weren’t considered.

Now under fire from Indigenous groups and some of the province’s historians, Quebec’s new education minister, Jean-François Roberge, said the government has no intention of changing its new curriculum, telling CBC that “history will always be subject to debate.”

But Nunavik education officials say that debate has clearly excluded Indigenous groups.

“We were put in a position where it became very difficult not to perceive the ministry of education as being more interested in getting us to endorse the history program as it was, rather than genuinely seeking our collaboration to improve it,” said Robert Watt, president of KI, in a Nov. 28 news release.

The new curriculum makes little mention of Inuit contributions to Quebec history, the school board said, and where it does—such as its reference to Nunavik’s land claim—KI said it’s not presented from an Inuit perspective.

“The more you understand a context, the most effective you are at providing your professional expertise,” Watt said.

“It should be clear that our students benefit directly from a history program that incorporates Indigenous worldview, heritage and contributions into a shared history.”

Instead, KI is now developing its own circumpolar-focused history program in collaboration with Avataq Cultural Institute, to be published in Inuktitut, French and English.

The school board plans to pilot the new history program in its 2019–20 school year, with a roll-out to all of its schools the following year.

In the meantime, Quebec has approved KI’s request to allow students to choose between either taking a course in history and citizenship education, or on the circumpolar world, to get the mandatory history credits to fulfill a secondary school diploma.

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