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Vancouver schools budget should invest in Indigenous languages: trustee

Last Updated May 6, 2021 at 10:58 pm PDT

(Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Trustee Jennifer Reddy wants some of the budget to go toward launching an Indigenous languages program

One trustee is asking for an initial investment of $200,000 to develop, launch the program

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — One Vancouver school trustee wants the board to invest in teaching Indigenous languages, saying doing so will demonstrate a commitment to reconciliation.

Trustee Jennifer Reddy has brought a motion that asks for an initial $200,000 investment so a program can be developed and launched in consultation with Indigenous education experts, parents, and language schools already being operated by the Musqeuam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.

“For me, budgets really are a statement of priorities. So when we say that we’re committed to reconciliation, when we say that we want to uphold Indigenous rights, when we make an acknowledgment that we’re on unceded territory — that comes with responsibilities,” she explains, adding she is bringing forward something parents and students have told her they want to see.

“For me, it really is a call to action from community who have asked for many types of investments in Indigenous education, including language programming.”

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Reddy notes the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has called for the preservation, revitalization, and strengthening of Indigenous languages, including explicitly calling for language education to be adequately funded.

Teaching Indigenous languages would offer Indigenous students an opportunity to see their cultures represented and valued, which would also be instructive for non-Indigenous students too.

“The key points that stood out for me are around, place, belonging, and feeling represented in the education that you’re a part of,” Reddy explains.

“When I’ve heard many parents speak, either at school board meetings, or in the community, there is really a draw to want to centre Indigenous knowledge, languages, expertise in an educational setting that’s not only available for Indigenous students, but non-Indigenous students as well. It would be an offering to all community members to add another very important linguistic component to educational programming.”

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Allocating funding would ensure language experts and community consultants can be compensated for their expertise, it would also mean a concrete commitment to moving forward.

“Two things are really important. One is paying Indigenous experts as you would other experts, and so not relying on volunteerism to carry something that will be of such importance and significance in an educational setting, being sure to compensate individuals that are being asked to lead and consult in this process,” she says.

“The $200,000 that’s being asked to focus on indigenous language programming development would be a start, and absolutely hopefully the beginning of something much more robust, as we begin to implement.”

The Vancouver School Board has an operating budget of approximately $600 million. Reddy says it’s important for the public to provide feedback on how that money is spent. The board’s finance committee will be hearing from speakers on May 12, and the budget vote is set for May 25.

“The more people can be informed and engaged about how public funds are being spent in an educational setting, the better,” Reddy says.