Good Governance for School Boards

Trustee Professional Development Program

Module 20 — A Journey Towards Truth and Reconciliation

Last updated in 2017

A Journey Towards Truth and Reconciliation
Arrow LeftPrevious Module
Next ModuleArrow Right


  • The true history of Indigenous peoples in Canada
    • The impact of government policies
    • Legislation that affected Indigenous peoples over time
    • The legacy of the residential school system
    • Other initiatives (such as the 60s Scoop) that have had profound impacts on the lives of Indigenous peoples
  • Ways in which school boards, and schools, are moving toward reconciliation through
    • Indigenous language programming
    • Safe spaces for Indigenous students
    • Programs focused on the land
    • Events
    • Thoughtful and determined work toward good educational outcomes for Indigenous students


In Module Two, Effective Governance for Student Achievement and Well-Being, trustees learn that elected school boards make a deep and direct contribution to the improvement of learning for all students. They do this by building public understanding and strengthening the commitment of their communities to valuing and sustaining high levels of student achievement and well-being. Authentic student achievement is a combination of academic, social, emotional, cultural and spiritual wellness. The Public School system is founded on principles of universal access to education opportunities for all students regardless of their ethnic, racial or cultural backgrounds, social or economic status, individual exceptionality, or religious preference. Its unique mandate is to celebrate and reflect the diversity inherent in our society and to welcome all students. In public schools, student achievement occurs in a context of acknowledgement of and celebration for the diversity of belief, values, faiths and language for all students it serves while providing the understanding and basic skills required for active, compassionate participation in the life of the family, the community, the province, the nation, and a global society.

A Journey Towards Truth and Reconciliation: First Nations, Métis and Inuit Trustee Professional Learning Module provides trustees with context and information crucial to the work of ensuring that they help to lead their boards in shaping positive school climates, where students and staff have a deep respect for Indigenous peoples and their history, and in which Indigenous students find their cultures reflected and respected. Most importantly, this information will help trustees work through their Boards to ensure that Indigenous students experience both well-being and academic success in their schools.

The four Ontario School Board Associations believe there is a practical and moral obligation to equip trustees and school boards with an accurate knowledge of Indigenous history and with insight and support for building school communities where the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Ontarians is founded on mutual respect and understanding.

The challenges facing Indigenous students, families, and communities have long and complex roots. They have been shaped by the impact of history, legislation, and government policies. The roots of the situation we find ourselves in today are deep and complicated. However, they have led to Indigenous students graduating from secondary schools at a rate 20% lower than that of mainstream students, to a climate in which students go missing or die when they leave their reserves to attend school, and to rates of suicide among Indigenous youth that are 5 to 6 times higher than non-Indigenous youth.

In more recent years there have been grounds for hope. In June of 2008, the Canadian government issued an apology on behalf of all Canadians for the Indian Residential Schools system. The Government recognized that “two primary objectives of the Residential Schools system were to remove and isolate children from the influence of their homes, families, traditions and cultures, and to assimilate them into the dominant culture. These objectives were based on the assumption Aboriginal cultures and spiritual beliefs were inferior and unequal. Indeed, some sought, as it was infamously said, “to kill the Indian in the child”. Today, we recognize that this policy of assimilation was wrong, has caused great harm, and has no place in our country.” The Government established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to chart a path forward.

In 2015, the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was issued. Its Calls to Action represented the Commission’s blueprint for Canadians to work together to build a better future for Indigenous Canadians. Two Calls in particular focused on Education – Calls 62 and 63. The Ontario government has committed to implementing these Calls to Action, and has begun a number of initiatives within the Ministry of Education to do so. In turn, Ontario’s public school boards, school trustees, schools, teachers, and communities have begun to take action to improve educational experiences and outcomes for Indigenous students.


Learning the truth about the history of Indigenous peoples is necessary preparation for reconciliation. The stories you will hear shine a light on the dark corners of our collective history, including residential schools, language loss, and devastating human injustice. These stories are not the whole story by any means. Neither did those who generously gave of themselves intend to speak on behalf of their community. Rather, they hoped that their experiences and opinions would inspire the work ahead; with you as individual trustees, and through you with Ontario’s school boards.

You will hear about the horrific effects of residential schools through survivors and their children. And through several expert contributions, you will learn about pieces of Indigenous history from pre-Contact to present time. The video offers a glimpse of an enormous landscape, yet it is unflinching look at the issues from the past that challenge us today as told by people with compassion and great dignity.

We invite you to find out all you can and to explore in greater depth elements in which you may be particularly interested in the Resources section.


Truth: An Introduction closes with a powerful challenge: “Now that you know, what are you going to do about it?” Video Two focuses on the hopeful steps that school boards and schools are taking toward reconciliation. You will see examples of schools recognizing Indigenous culture, supporting Indigenous students to succeed, and engaging their communities in the reconciliation process. Many school boards and schools are taking steps to recognize Indigenous culture, support Indigenous students in their schools, and engage their communities in the reconciliation process. This video shows you as trustees some examples of schools and school boards working together with their communities to creatively and collaboratively explore and bring forward Indigenous history, culture, and issues.

Click here to begin tracking your progress