Ministers of Education join with Canadians to celebrate National Aboriginal Day

TORONTO, June 21, 2014 /CNW/ - Provincial and territorial ministers of education are pleased to join today with Canadians from coast to coast to coast to celebrate National Aboriginal Day.

First established in 1996 by then Governor General Roméo LeBlanc, National Aboriginal Day serves to honour the rich social and cultural heritage of First Nation, Inuit, and Métis peoples and highlight their important role in Canada's ongoing development. Aboriginal people in Canada observe June 21, the summer solstice, as a day of notable cultural significance reserved for reflection, thanksgiving, rejuvenation, and renewal.

"National Aboriginal Day provides Canadians with the opportunity to learn more about the contributions of Aboriginal people to Canadian society through a celebration of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit languages, culture, art, music, and more," said the Honourable Jeff Johnson, Chair of CMEC and Minister of Education for Alberta. "The resilience of Canada's Aboriginal people is all the more remarkable given the severe challenges faced by individuals, families, and entire communities who have been — and continue to be — affected by the devastating effects of Indian Residential Schools in Canada."

In an effort to understand how best to address the ongoing impact of Indian Residential Schools, CMEC first met with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRCC) in 2012. Since then, ministers have agreed to ensure that students gain an understanding, over the course of their studies, of how residential schools affected Aboriginal children, families, and communities and, ultimately, the country as a whole The TRCC has been invited to join ministers at the 103rd CMEC meeting this summer in Charlottetown to review progress on this work.

"Provincial and territorial education systems have an important role to play in ensuring all students are aware of this dark chapter in Canadian history," said the Honourable Jackson Lafferty, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment for Northwest Territories and CMEC lead on Aboriginal education. "It is only when the truth of our past is brought into the light that we can all move forward into a brighter future." Minister Lafferty, who was himself a residential school student, recently addressed the issue at the World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education (WIPC:E) in Oahu, Hawaii, where he served as a keynote speaker for an international delegation of over 3,000 experts on indigenous education.

Along with work on Indian Residential Schools, CMEC continues to focus on pan-Canadian work that can contribute to eliminating the gaps in achievement and graduation rates between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal learners. This includes Aboriginal education data collection and analysis and ongoing dialogue with national Aboriginal organizations (NAOs) and other partners on a variety of Aboriginal education issues.

More information on CMEC initiatives in Aboriginal education, including key legacy events such as the 2009 first-ever national summit on Aboriginal education, "Strengthening Aboriginal Success: Moving Toward Learn Canada 2020," and the 2011 Educators' Forum on Aboriginal Education, can be found on the CMEC Web site.

About CMEC

Founded in 1967, CMEC is the collective voice of Canada's ministers of education. It provides leadership in education at the pan-Canadian and international levels and contributes to the exercise of the exclusive jurisdiction of provinces and territories over education. For more information, visit us at www.cmec.ca.

SOURCE: Council of Ministers of Education, Canada

For further information: Colin Bailey, Director, Communications, Cell: 416-938-1911, Tel.: 416-962-8100, ext. 259, E-mail: c.bailey@cmec.ca, Twitter: @CCMEC

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http://www.cmec.ca

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