Education as an act of reconciliation The integration of Indigenous learning into young elementary school curriculum


The Ontario education system is modifying their curriculum to integrate topics in Indigenous learning into the social studies programs of elementary schools. The new curriculum will integrate Indigenous learning into the classrooms of children in Grades 1 through 3. The current curriculum does not include Indigenous topics in the social studies program until Grade 4. 

“There was a gap in the current complement of learning where Grades 1 to 3 within our social science program did not have any learning really related to Indigenous history and culture,” said Stephen Lecce, the Ontario minister of education. 

Previously, the curriculum did not touch on important subjects such as the history of residential schools. It instead focused on studying Indigenous culture, including their interrelationship with the environment and one another.

The new curriculum was formed by working with Indigenous partners, Elders, knowledge holders and education stakeholders, ensuring that the truth of Indigenous history and culture will be shared through the new education plan. 

The new curriculum will support Indigenous learning through all grades of elementary school, and will delve into topics such as the role of family and resilience in First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities and nations; First Nations, Métis and Inuit historical and contemporary realities; Indigenous peoples’ interrelationship and connection with the land; and the residential school system and the reclamation and revitalization of identity, language, culture and community connections. 

“Education is a critical component to reconciliation, and we look forward to a collaborative partnership with Ontario that will allow us to develop, strengthen and prioritize Indigenous content and learning within Ontario schools. Curricula that feature Métis-specific content benefits both Métis students and their peers, and we commend the Ontario Ministry of Education for their continued commitment to reconciliation through impactful and meaningful partnerships,” said Joanne Meyer, the Chief Operating Officer of the Métis Nation of Ontario. 

The Ontario Ministry of Education expects that the new curriculum will be ready for the 2023-2024 school year. 

The importance of reconciliation through education was recognized by the Liberal government that preceded the current Conservative government. The Liberal government was working with Indigenous leaders toward better incorporation of Indigenous learning and recognition of residential schools in the Ontario curriculum. The plans for the new curriculum were discarded when the Conservative government came into power in 2018. 

The introduction of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30 was used as a stepping stone to integrate reconciliation into the classroom. Rather than having the day off of school, students attended school where topics of Indigenous history and culture could be reflected on. 

“We believe that all students, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, are enriched by learning about the history, the culture, the perspectives and contributions of First Nations and Inuit and Metis Inuit individuals raised in Canada,” Lecce said.