Justice Murray Sinclair has a good case to argue that professionals who work with First Nations people should have good grounding in the historical and cultural factors that can complicate that work and relations with native people. For many years, those in authority — doctors, teachers, police — carried out services at the direction of government, by policies that were often racist and harmful to First Nations.
Some professionals are regarded with suspicion to this day.
That touches upon the myriad considerations that get in the way of building good relations with clients, or act as a barrier to integrating First Nation employees and professionals into the work force. These are some of the things Judge Sinclair, commissioner of the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission, had in mind in insisting last week that all professions undergo mandatory training in the history of residential schools in Canada.
Any organization or professional school whose employees and students will be in frequent contact with aboriginal people and communities should see the evident need that they understand the tormented history of First Nations people at the hands of European settlers and the impact it still has to this very day. But it does not need to be mandatory on all professions.
Rather, understanding the roots of this country’s political, social and economic relationship with its first peoples should be required as basic education. That is why public school curriculum should reflect the history and the reality of First Nations. This is important to Canada, in all realms.
» A version of this editorial ran recently in the Winnipeg Free Press.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 15, 2013