Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)

B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

An Abbotsford mom with a First Nations background is enraged that her daughter received a school assignment to list five positive stories about residential schools.

Krista Macinnis told The Abbotsford News she found out about the assignment when her 11-year-old daughter, who is in Grade 6 at W.A. Fraser Middle School, came to her for help on Tuesday (Nov. 24) while she was making dinner.

“She said, ‘I’m supposed to write at least five positive stories or facts about the residential school from these three websites that my teacher has given me to look up the information from.’ And she had already gotten two things written down,” Macinnis said.

“And then I saw it, and I immediately began to cry and shake as I tried to gain my composure.”

Macinnis, who is of Cree and Blackfoot heritage and has participated in the Wet’suwet’en pipeline protests, said the next thing she did was give her daughter an eraser and tell her to get rid of her name and the answers she had already written.

She said her daughter told her that she had learned in class that residential schools were bad and that the worst thing that had happened was “they cut their hair.”

Macinnis said the students have been reading a book called Fatty Legs, a memoir about a young Inuvialuit girl’s two years at a religious residential school.

“The gist around it is that apparently there are Natives and Elders that came forward that said, ‘Hey, there is a positive side to residential schools, and we feel like these should be heard about and they should be seen.’

“As a First Nations person, I understand that we all have our own voice about the things that happened there. Unfortunately, I don’t think that this is something that should be taught in a classroom environment, when it’s not the true horrors and events of residential schools.”

RELATED: Multigenerational pain of residential schools lingers for many in B.C.

RELATED: Advisers suggest Alberta students not learn about residential schools before Grade 4

Macinnis said she explained to her daughter that children at residential schools were abused, ripped away from their families, hurt if they spoke their own language, and that some never made it out alive. She told her that some survivors were so wounded that they cannot speak about it.

She told her daughter that she did not agree with the homework assignment and that she felt it was wrong. Macinnis said her daughter agreed to support her mom in whatever she chose to do.

Macinnis posted a video about the issue on her social media accounts, and it has gone viral. She compared the assignment to asking someone to list five positive things about slavery or “Nazis and concentration camps.”

“There’s no positive to it … That’s like saying, ‘Well, some Jewish people learned to read when they were in concentration camps. Focus on that.’ ”

Macinnis said it’s not clear whether the assignment was the creation of the teacher or has been used in other classes. She contacted the school principal, who she commended for addressing the issue immediately and inviting her to come in for an apology from him and the teacher.

But Macinnis said she’s not sure that she’s ready for that.

“I feel like somebody does need to be held accountable for this beyond just an apology, because I feel like it’s kind of just echoing our whole situation in general. What happened to us (First Nations people) is downplayed and twisted and turned, and then the government thinks, ‘Oh, we can apologize and it will be OK.’”

Macinnis said she wants answers about how the assignment made it into a classroom.

School district superintendent Kevin Godden said in a written statement that “assignments like this are not acceptable.”

“As a school district, we are deeply committed to equity and inclusion … This incident is a disservice to the district’s commitment to truth and reconciliation,” he said, adding that the incident is “not a reflection of our very skilled and talented teacher workforce.”

“Our school principal has spoken with the parent directly to personally apologize. We are deeply sorry for any harm caused to the parents, students, families and the Indigenous community at large.”

Godden said the district is continuing to investigate the matter and no further details are available at this time.

RELATED: Residential-school survivors call on Ottawa and provinces for monuments



vhopes@abbynews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Abby SchoolsFirst Nations

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The North Okanagan Optimist Club is hosting its first photography contest for kids aged five to 18 with three themes: Play; Learn; Nature. (File photo)
North Okanagan Optimistic Club hosts youth photo contest

Kids aged five to 18 can enter in three themes: Play; Learn; Nature

A second case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at Vernon’s BX Elementary School. (Kerry Hutter photo)
Second COVID case confirmed at Vernon elementary school

Exposure at BX Elementary happened April 6 and 7

Highway 97 being converted to four lanes in April 1990. This photo taken in Lake Country. (Greater Vernon Museum and Archives Photo #14025)
HISTORY: How the old Highway 97 in Lake Country got new name

Pelmewash Parkway recognizes the First Nations history in Lake Country

Highway 97A in Armstrong was closed in both directions Monday afternoon, just after 4 p.m., due to a serious accident at Rosedale Avenue. (Bob Dunbar photo)
No merge lanes needed on Armstrong’s Highway 97 access points: ministry

Transportation Ministry reviews accident reports, slope stability with city staff

Donna Kaufmann was named the 2021 Rotary RCMP Volunteer of the Year. (RCMP)
Vernon RCMP volunteer of the year named

Donna Kaufmann dubbed winner for positive impact on community

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

These nails were collected off the Campbell Mountain bike trails in Penticton this weekend. Someone placed them all over the trail. (Facebook)
Hundreds of nails placed on popular Penticton bike trail

A mountain biker took to Facebook to warn others about the nails

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

Flight with COVID
Another Kelowna flight with COVID-19 exposure

Westjet flight on April 5 from Kelowna to Edmonton

Most Read