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    Sandy Silver interview April 8, 2022 CHONfm

Some Yukoners are hopeful about a possible First Nation School Board

“I’m very very excited about it,” says Melanie Bennett.

Tomorrow is the last day for voting in the Yukon First Nation School Board referendum.

Takhini Elementary School in Whitehorse is one of eight schools potentially joining the endum.

 

Eight schools across the territory will decide whether or not they join the board.

 

A 2019 auditor general of Canada report on education in the Yukon found that the territory’s department of education had not identified why First Nations students have a lower high school graduation rate than other students. It also revealed that the government of Yukon wasn’t doing enough to provide education programs that reflect First Nations culture and languages.

 

Earlier this month, the Yukon Legislative Assembly’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts held a public hearing with the Yukon Chiefs Committee on Education appearing as a witness to discuss whether or not any progress has been made towards improving educations since the 2019 report.

 

Melanie Bennett of the Tr’ondёk Hwёch’in First Nation is the executive director of the Yukon First Nation Education Directorate and a technician on the Yukon Chiefs Committee on Education.

 

After the hearing, she told CHONfm that she hasn’t seen any reasonable change so far, but she is optimistic that if the First Nation School Board comes to fruition, things will get better.

 

“The First Nation School Board agreement has great hope from the First Nations that it will be the process that will change some of those outcomes and build a really strong model that will celebrate not just one world view but all world views,” said Bennett.

 

Kari Johnston lives in Haines Junction, where St. Elias Community School is participating in the referendum. She already voted in favor of the board.

 

“This really looks like it’s an opportunity for our community to grow, and to grow together, and to move forward with steps toward reconciliation,” Johnston told CHONfm.

 

Johnston has a daughter who is just about to turn three. She hopes a First Nation School Board will mean a better education for her child when she heads off to school.

 

“We’re in an opportunity for transformation here in our education system and we see report after report after report indicating that Yukon’s education system is failing Yukon First Nations and it’s failing many of our rural Yukon kids, so any opportunity to transform those things and build something together out of two world views is really a lesson for the word,” said Johnston.

 

Bennett believes that even if the vote creates the new school board, there will always be more work to be done when it comes to education.

 

“I think it’s the first phase and first stage for some First Nations to have more local authority and control in regards to the delivery of education to their Indigenous children. It’s the first step and we need to just fully support it. I’m verry very excited about it,” said Bennett.

 

The full list of schools that could potentially be a part of the First Nation School Board are:

 

• Chief Zzeh Gittlit School in Old Crow
• Grey Mountain Primary School in Whitehorse
• J.V. Clark School in Mayo
• Johnson Elementary School and Watson Lake Secondary School in Watson Lake
• Nelnah Bessie John School in Beaver Creek
• Ross River School in Ross River
• St. Elias Community School in Haines Junction
• Takhini Elementary School in Whitehorse

 

After all of the ballots are counted, if any school decides to join the board, an election will be held to appoint trustees.

 

The unofficial results are expected from Elections Yukon after 4pm tomorrow.

Written by: Dylan MacNeil

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