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Opposition to Jesuit school in Winnipeg’s north end growing
Opponents of a news religious school in Winnipeg’s largely Indigenous north end have found some new allies.
Last night they presented their case opposing the school to Manitoba’s largest school board.
And as Dennis Ward reports, they’re also calling on the pope to intervene.
Leaders write Pope asking him to stop private school opening in Winnipeg’s north end
Indigenous leaders are speaking out against a new, private Jesuit school set to open in September in Winnipeg’s north end, saying it is too reminiscent of a residential school.
Gonzaga Middle School aims to support academically gifted students with longer hours and smaller class sizes.
It also plans to remove barriers for low-income and academically gifted students between Grades 6 and 8 by offering free education.
But the activists say a private Catholic school in a largely Indigenous neighbourhood is a bad idea and goes against recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Opposition raised to Jesuit school in poor Winnipeg neighbourhood
The school also plans to remove barriers for low-income and academically gifted students between Grades 6 and 8 by offering free education.
But Larry Morrissette, executive director of Ogijiita Pimatiswin Kinamatwin, an organization that works with youth in gangs, says the indigenous community was not properly consulted.
He says the school goes against the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
And he worries the mistakes of the past could be repeated.
“Again they’re coming in with the idea that they know better than us,” says Morrissette. “There’s no call in that report that asks for, you know, the Jesuits or any other religious group to come into the city, north end, central, to build schools."
Mark Wasyliw, chairman of the Winnipeg School Division, is also concerned, saying the school will pick and choose certain students, leaving others behind.
“We’re interested in building up communities and that means building up all students in a community,” says Wasyliw.
Wasyliw says that would move youngsters who could develop into community leaders out of the city's North End.
He says the school means well, but funding could be better used to support programs that already exist within the community and school division.
“They’re planning to help 60 students within that neighbourhood and what we’re saying is that if you work with us, we could do a lot more with that money and we certainly could help a lot more than 60 students,” says Wasyliw.
Manitoba Treaty Commissioner Jamie Wilson is speaking out in support of the school, saying parents should have a choice in how their children are educated.
He credits the Jesuits for being the first religious organization to make amends during the Truth and Reconciliation hearings.
“What matters most to me is aboriginal students being given opportunities to graduate and succeed and Gonzaga certainly has earned that reputation today.”
Gonzaga has several prominent financial backers, including Mark Chipman of True North Sports and Entertainment.
[url=http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/regina-school-takes-backpacks-to-brief... modelled on this school in Regina[/url]. Which is itself modelled on a Jesuit inner-city school model aimed at African Americans.
James B. (Jamie) Wilson, B.A., U.S.T.C., M.Ed. Commissioner, Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba
Treaty Commissioner Jamie Wilson is a progressive, young leader, originally from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, who moves with equal ease in both First Nations and non-Indigenous communities.
He is an educator, a former Ranger in the US military’s Special Operations and, recently, he graduated from the Executive Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business in California.
Possessing a warrior spirit, Jamie is a high calibre triathlete and crossfit competitor. On Ancestral lands, he is an award-winning environmentalist and survivalist who teaches the traditional ways of land navigation, and subsistence living. He has also long advocated for the equality of women in ceremony and in leadership....
Fast Facts: No Jesuit School in Winnipeg's North End
The establishment of the Jesuit middle school is inconsistent with what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is calling for. Nowhere in its “Calls to Action” in pursuit of reconciliation does the TRC invite the Catholic Church back into Indigenous communities so that they can “immerse students in Catholic culture.” On the contrary, the TRC rightly observes that it was this immersion — and the cultural arrogance that it implies — that was the problem. Instead of being immersed in Catholic culture, our young people need to learn about the beauty and wisdom inherent in our own Indigenous cultures.
That is what we believe the Manitoba Collaborative Indigenous Education Blueprint for Universities, Colleges and Public School Boards, which was signed in December 2015, is calling for. It commits universities, colleges and public schools in Manitoba to advance Indigenous education and reconciliation. The universities, colleges and public school boards who have signed on to this initiative have committed to “promoting research and learning that reflects the history and contemporary context of the lives of Indigenous people.” By promoting Indigenous cultures in this way, says David Barnard, President of the University of Manitoba, the initiative will “make Manitoba a centre of excellence in Indigenous education.” This cannot be achieved by yet again immersing Indigenous children in Catholic culture.
Jesuit school misstep for North End
There are educational institutions in the inner city that have been developed by and are run by and for aboriginal people that are doing exceptionally well (including Children of the Earth High School, the Aboriginal Centre and Urban Circle Training Centre).
These education institutions are highly effective. They have worked for years to develop pedagogical methods tailored to the lived realities of aboriginal people. They have produced many hundreds of graduates -- aboriginal people who are now making important contributions to Winnipeg and other communities. Yet, despite demonstrated success, these aboriginal education institutions still struggle for funding. Why not direct the very substantial funds to be funnelled into the proposed Jesuit school into those aboriginal schools that have already proved they work well?
This belief someone other than aboriginal people knows better is exactly what happened with the creation of Youth for Christ. The former federal government of Stephen Harper and the former Winnipeg city council led by Sam Katz poured millions into that religious organization -- even when outstanding aboriginal youth-serving organizations were struggling for funding and speaking out against directing scarce funds into religious organizations parachuting into the inner city.
A 2014 report found few aboriginal youth accessed Youth for Christ, at least in part because of the fees that are charged. The report described suburban youth using the facility, driven there by parents who could afford it and who wanted religious programming. As one non-aboriginal suburban teen is reported to have said: "I really love it here. It's the first dance studio I have ever been to that I can actually glorify God through my dancing."