By Chadd Cawson Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The ‘Every Child Matters’ Yearlong Learning Challenge launched on October 1, the second year for the initiative.
“I feel it is my responsibility to keep the momentum of Truth and Reconciliation going throughout the year. Having Every Child Matter’s Year-long Challenge begin the day after the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, demonstrates the importance and commitment toward reconciliation,” said Jenna Jasek, School District 6 vice principal for Indigenous Learning and Equity and co-partner. “Climate change, mental health and the overall well-being of all people are being challenged daily. Inviting Indigenous Peoples and their knowledge, pedagogy, and practices into systems will aid in addressing many of the challenges we are facing locally and globally. Yet, many people are still learning the truth of the atrocities that occurred and are occurring to Indigenous Peoples. Until communities and systems have Truth and Reconciliation as a priority, advocates, allies, and Indigenous Peoples can only make minor differences.”
Registration for this initiative will remain open until mid-October. A virtual orientation session was held on Oct. 5 , where participants were able to learn more about the context for the year ahead, what to expect, and how to navigate the learning portal.
“This year is a bit different from our first year. Instead of having organizations and businesses sign up on behalf of their staff and volunteers, we are inviting people to register individually. That way, the learning can be personalized a bit more,” said Duncan Whittick, co-partner and executive director of the Columbia Basin Environmental Education Network (CBEEN).
“However, we still encourage organizations and businesses to set aside time for their staff to undertake this. At the minimum, this is just a 15-to-20-minute time commitment per month, with opportunities for learning extensions that could be another one to three hours each month, if they so choose. Our goal is to make this both a realistic and achievable amount of time, while also acknowledging that this learning takes time and needs a consistent effort over a longer period.”
Last year, more than 1,000 participants and 100 organizations including Rocky Mountain School District and others across the Canadian Columbia Basin, participated in the pilot project. Phyllis Jack-Webstadt, founder of the Orange Shirt Society, and Orange Shirt Day, participated in the pilot project too.
“This year, I am excited to share that, along with CBEEN, we have partnered with Reconciliation Education,” Jasek said. “Reconciliation Education has created an anti-racism/Truth and Reconciliation course called the 4 Seasons of Truth and Reconciliation. This course consists of ten modules. We will focus on one module a month and provide a webinar with speakers focusing on topics being considered. We will also provide extra resources for those interested in learning more about each issue. Topics include pre-contact, contact, residential schools, the Indian Act, and other themes imperative to Indigenous learning.”
The idea for the project began the summer of 2020 by getting Every Child Matters flags out in the community. Since then, Whittick and Jasek have worked tirelessly to help elevate the conversation in the valley. They want to ensure there is heightened awareness, that the discovery of the remains of the Indigenous children found in Kamloops and other residential schools, is not just part of a newsfeed or only recognized one day a year. Last year, Whittick and Jasek researched information about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada.
“I hope more people begin their journey of learning truths and create more space for compassion and understanding in our society,” Jasek said. “I also hope more people are encouraged to decolonize their schools and workplaces and listen to the invites from Mother Earth to get outside more.”
Jasek and Whittick found their best inspiration for last year’s challenge when they too, acted on Mother Earth’s invitation and did weekly walks around Dorothy Lake. Positive feedback poured in ,complimenting the learning materials, the online events and the virtual gatherings with Indigenous leaders and organizations that took place. The learning challenge that Whittick and Jasek created offered a safe space to continue the harder conversations after Truth and Reconciliation Day.
“I personally found last year’s learning challenge to be an incredible learning experience,” Whittick said. “I love facilitating learning experiences where you are learning alongside participants. Having the opportunity to work with Jenna and to learn from so many incredible Indigenous Peoples and resources was an honour. It has certainly increased my resolve to ensure that this is a core part of my lifelong learning journey. I look forward to the learning in the year ahead.”
For more information on this year’s Every Child Matters Year-long Learning Challenge visit cbeen.ca
“Kukstsemc (thank you in Secwépemc) to all the people who have registered and those who will register.” Jasek said. “I look forward to learning with you this year.”