As instruments for advancing democratic values, Canada’s public schools have an ambiguous legacy. Over the years, many exclusionary and colonialist policies have been challenged, and this shift in cultural values has inspired policies to help make public schools in Canada more diverse and accessible.
It is less apparent, however, that public schools in Canada have come to grips with the historical impacts, and ongoing threats, of colonialism. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said Canada has no colonial history, but a more honest evaluation of the real situation would begin by acknowledging that “First Nations people in Canada continue to suffer from the onslaught of colonization.”
Colonialism can be understood as an exploitative relationship of power that, as Asante explains, “seeks to impose the will of one people on another and to use the resources of the imposed people for the benefit of the imposer.” While some forms of colonialism accomplish this with force, others use soft forms of coercion, which can be masked by platitudes, and where interactions have the semblance of common—if not good—sense.
Teach For Canada (TFC), a plan to recruit and train teachers from university faculties of education, and to place them in high-need rural classrooms across Canada, provides an example of where progressive (faux-gressive?) language is being used to promote a program that will reproduce Canada’s historical colonial legacy in First Nations communities.