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Part 3: Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

Chilliwack trustee candidates answer the third of 10 questions from the CTA
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The Chilliwack Teachers’ Association has presented Chilliwack School Board candidates with 10 questions leading up to the 2022 municipal election Oct. 15, 2022. (Ben Hohenstatt / Black Press Media)

The Chilliwack Teachers’ Association sent a questionnaire to the 15 candidates running for the Chilliwack School Board in October’s municipal election.

The CTA posed 10 questions, and the Chilliwack Progress will publish the questions and answers one at a time. The first part was published Friday (Sept. 16) and the second was published Monday (Sept. 19). We continue today with part three. The remaining questions and answers will be released the rest of this week and into next week, as election day approaches on Oct. 15.

Today’s question is, ‘How would you use the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act (DRIPA) as a lens when developing Board policy?’

Answers below are presented in alphabetical order by first name. Candidates Elliott Friesen, Lewis Point and Richard Procee didn’t provide responses before the CTA deadline.

RELATED: Part 1 - Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

RELATED: Part 2 - Chilliwack Teachers’ Association questions school board candidates

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Barry Neufeld:

This DRIPA focuses primarily on real estate and mineral rights. We are already doing an outstanding job in ensuring our aboriginal students are engaged and receiving the best possible education. And we will continue to do so. The DRIPA will guide our annual talks with the local band chiefs. However, as available land becomes scarce, the DRIPA may be the key to negotiating with Band Councils to build new schools on reserve lands.

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Brian Van Garderen:

When developing board policy it is extremely important to have all parties consulted but even more so it is important to honor the traditions, titles, and rights of Indigenous peoples. It is important to have a representative from the Indigenous community who has been chosen by them to represent their interests and honor the rights to self-government. It is also important to create policies and intentional opportunities like professional development days focused on learning more and supporting opportunities for local people to teach and share in schools, to help educate and end racism and discrimination towards Indigenous peoples through education. I would also like to explore the potential of supporting extracurricular activities that help connect Indigenous students across the district to share their stories and experiences to help foster stronger relationships among youth.

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Carin Bondar:

DRIPA is meant to serve as a framework for the reconciliation work that is critical to our education system. All board policy should be constructed through the lens of the calls to action (CTAs) within it. CTAs 62-64 include implementing specific frameworks for Indigenization of the BC school curriculum. The Chilliwack school district (under the guidance of District Principal Brenda Point) has a strong plan for Indigenization. We recently received a presentation on this topic, it was exciting and inspiring to know that Chilliwack is a leader in Indigenization. Indigenization has already seen action from the government of BC with their updated requirements to BC Graduation for the 2023/2024 school year (which is an excellent step forward). This work needs to continue until Indigenous graduation rates are equal to non-Indigenous rates. Our education system is not democratic until this work has been thoroughly done.

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Darrell Furgason:

I am committed to any action that would serve to promote understanding and reconciliation.

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Darren Ollinger:

In the case of using the Declaration on The Rights Of Indigenous People Act (DRIPA) which I am not familiar with, I suspect that policy, whether recommended or mandatory of the Act would provide the lens on how to approach policy development. On a side note, I would expect that the use of Standard English would be used in policy implementation, as If I would have to learn a second language, that would be Latin.

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David Swankey:

There is a lot that can be done, not just in policy development but in almost every role the board plays in public education. First, supporting and contributing to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act Action Plan commitments is important; the provincial government has made this work a priority and the Chilliwack School District has the opportunity to follow through on commitments under the purview of the Ministry of Education and Child Care for the benefit of our district. Looking past the provincial Action Plan, the board must be consistently mindful of DRIPA in all discussions at the board table. This includes continuing the Equity Scan with particular attention to work in policy and governance. This will be important as the policy manual review is continued and completed, and as policy is reviewed in accordance with Policy 150. Finally, honouring and welcoming the work of the Indigenous Education Advisory Committee (IEAC) both in policy development and in better informing the work of the board.

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Greg Nelmes:

First of all, I need to have a careful read of this DRIPA Act. I’m a team player and believe strongly in our District Motto “Partners in Learning.” It all comes down to respecting everyone and treating everyone with dignity.

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Heather Maahs:

This is actually embedded in directions from the ministry and staff is doing a great job of its development.

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Kaethe Jones:

I am not too familiar with the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act but have lived and worked on 2 reservations (isolated & semi-isolated). From my experience on reservations I have seen how many words are spoken about improving the life for the indigenous peoples but have yet to actually see much improvement. Words are cheap, what we need is action. First of all, we would need to talk with the First Nations Educational Committee in our district to understand what they see as their needs/concerns and not impose our own agenda. This has probably been the biggest issue most of the time. Board policy would come from this communication.

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Margaret Reid:

DRIPA is hugely important to Reconciliation in BC and must be applied by default to all things coming to or out of the Board. I work in a First Nations community locally, and because I aim to do so in a culturally safe manner, I have a lot of experience with the practical application of policy when impacted people are not included in planning. I would advocate to have more Indigenous representation where policies are being made, and ensure that all Board members and participants are familiar with DRIPA, the TRC, and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Action Plan. I would also encourage investigations into policy impact, because lived experiences matter. This lens would include Indigenous students and families, but also Indigenous staff, teachers, and local First Nations.

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Teri Westerby:

Under the framework of DRIPA, it is imperative that all policies that are passed through the board are in alignment with Reconciliation and the 94 Calls to Action. This means collaborating with the many local First Nations that have students in the District, so that they are receiving an education that aligns with, affirms and celebrates their culture and identities and ensures the First Nations communities that they have self-determination in their education and choices in learning. The board and policies must work for truth, and work to bring to light the inequities and discrimination of the system that we are currently leading, while simultaneously working to dismantle the barriers and marginalization that occur. This means challenging policies that are missing these factors, constantly educating myself and immersing myself in Indigenous teachings. It means policies that reflect the diverse identities of the First People here in Chilliwack. It means collaboration and partnership.

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Willow Reichelt:

We begin every meeting by acknowledging that we are on unceded Stó:lō territory, and it’s important for all trustees to realize that this means we have an obligation to make sure that Indigenous students and families have a true voice in shaping our education system. We have Local Education Agreements with all of the First Nations in our district, and we must make sure we meet our obligations. DRIPA commits us to combating anti-Indigenous racism, so we must make sure to teach the real history of our country (including the truth about the genocidal residential school system) as well as celebrating the successes of Indigenous people in our community and across the country.


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Eric Welsh

About the Author: Eric Welsh

I joined the Chilliwack Progress in 2007, originally hired as a sports reporter.
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