Remove Chris P. Champion as Alberta Social Studies Curriculum Advisor
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Dear Honourable Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education, and Nicole Williams, Chief of Staff,
We are writing to you today to request the removal of Chris P. Champion from the position of Alberta Social Studies Curriculum Advisor. Champion’s troubling and racially charged views about Indigenous peoples and Alberta’s education are of great concern, and undermine the hard work that educators have put into reconciliation and decolonizing our education system. Champion’s public comments on Indigenization completely undermine everything that the Truth and Reconciliation committee have worked so hard to achieve. Racism can not be tolerated, especially from those in power, and even more so from those in education who directly influence what the Social Studies curriculum entails. We ask that you take the time to carefully review the evidence we have provided below on Champion’s racist ideology:
In 2019, Champion published an article in the Dorchester Review Spring/Summer 2019, “Alberta’s Little History War,” in which he suggests the new curriculum designed by the NDP which works towards Indigenizing the curriculum is “social engineering and pedagogical fads” (p. 104). He goes on to say, “The ongoing fad is that we need ‘more’ First Nations ‘perspectives’” (p. 105). Champion then goes on to criticize the KAIROS Blanket Exercise because it supposedly:
“brainwashes children into thinking themselves as ‘settlers’ stealing the land - the kind of “truth and reconciliation” that is not evidence-based but relies on “knowledge keepers” to “foster truth.” The scientific tradition is that truth is discovered and authenticated, by contrast, the “truth” of Indigenous Elders sometimes contradicts the evidence.” (p. 105).
Champion’s comments are extremely hurtful and demeaning towards Indigenous peoples and completely undermine Indigenous peoples’ experiences, ways of life, and teaching.
His comments regarding the KAIROS blanket exercise are not fact based but taken from personal opinion, and to imply the brainwashing of children is a slippery slope from the stories of Indiginous genocide, of which there is plenty of evidence.
The following is a description of the Blanket Exercise directly from KAIROS Canada (2019):
The KAIROS Blanket Exercise program is a unique, interactive and participatory history lesson developed in collaboration with Indigenous Elders, knowledge keepers and educators.
Developed in response to the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples in 1996 –which recommended education about Canadian-Indigenous history as one of the key steps to reconciliation — the KAIROS Blanket Exercise (KBE) covers more than 500 years in a 90-minute experiential workshop that aims to foster understanding about our shared history as Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Since its creation, the Exercise has been updated several times to include new information such as the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation final report.
The blanket exercise is in no way intended to shame Canadians for what happened in the past, but rather educate from an Indigenous perspective. As students who have experienced the blanket exercise first hand, we have found it to be an eye opening and emotional experience that we would recommend to every Canadian student, and faculty member. Yet Champion asks, “Is [the exercise] fair to students?” (p. 105). We would argue that it is not “fair,” but a privilege for the majority of students in Alberta to only have to learn, not live, through the experiences Indigenous Peoples faced themselves in Canadian history. Historically, Indiginous history has been taught through tokenism; it is unjust for students to only hear one side of the story, the colonial side, which has been portrayed in the curriculum for far too long. Champion himself states that “Canadian children have a right to know our stories, and by heart” and that should include Indigenous stories (p. 105). Instead Champion suggests that “Canadians especially need Classical, European, and US history because North American societies are offshoots of Europe’s, particularly those of Britain and France” (p. 105). Champion purposely excludes Indiginous history from the narrative. His viewpoints on the history and establishment of Canada are a major concern as this is someone who is going to have a vital role in the creation and implementation of the Alberta Social Studies curriculum. Canadian Indigenous history came first, the only reason North American societies are “offshoots of Europes” is because of colonialism. The very least that we owe these communities is a voice in our curriculum. Champion places no value on that history or for those communities that were lost, and those that still live today.
Champion has also discredited the experiences of survivors of residential schools in his Dorchester Review opinion pieces. Part of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in our country is amplifying the voices and experiences of these people, rather than discrediting them and brushing their stories away.
Champion suggests including Ted Byfield’s Alberta in the Twentieth Century in schools, calling it a “comprehensive analytic narrative of the Province in the context of historians’ debates and Canadian and world history” (p. 105). Champion states in the article that, “this alone would increase students’ knowledge of the past and provide counterbalance to the prevailing, politicizing social justice tendency that has already gone too far” (p. 105). Champion’s shocking remarks about social justice going too far indicate his level of commitment to white supremacy in the curriculum. These backward views have no place in our curriculum.
If Champion holds his position as Social Studies Curriculum Advisor, it calls into question whether the curriculum will only tell the one-sided Euro-Canadian story, silencing the voices of Indigenous Peoples living in the colonized province of Alberta. By hiring somebody who only chooses to see one side of the story, you are allowing the curriculum to include political bias.
We implore you to make the right choice of removing Chris P. Champion from the position of the Alberta Social Studies Curriculum Advisor immediately. Furthermore, as a solution I would like to suggest hiring an Indigenous leader to fill this position instead, or at the very least someone who is committed to providing Alberta students with the truth when it comes to Indigenous people, history, and culture, and working towards reconciliation.
Brittany Van Weenen
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