By Hannah Owczar

The provincial government has made limited progress in closing educational gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students, according to a report out of the Manitoba auditor general’s office.

A Statistics Canada report found only 48 per cent of Indigenous people have a postsecondary qualification compared to nearly 68 per cent on non-Indigenous people.

Carla Kematch was appointed as Manager of Truth and Reconciliation and Community Engagement at Red River College in February. /SUPPLIED

The Office of the Auditor General Manitoba released 19 recommendations in 2016 to respond to gaps like these. The report advised the province to focus on improving educational outcomes for Indigenous students from K-12 and to identify key barriers to success. A follow up report, published in June, shows only two of these recommendations have been met so far. 

The Canadian education system has a long history of oppression for Indigenous people. In the 19th century, the federal government developed church-run, government-funded residential schools as a form of assimilation. During its peak in the 1930s, there were over 80 schools operating across the country. Children were removed from their homes and prohibited from speaking their languages and practicing their traditions, according to a 2015 Assembly of First Nations report.

Education reform was among the 94 Calls to Action released by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 2015. Post-secondary institutions have begun taking steps to implement these recommendations.

In December, nine post-secondary institutions signed on to Manitoba’s Indigenous Education Blueprint, a framework for incorporating reconciliation in schools.

As part of this pledge, Red River College appointed its first Manager of Truth and Reconciliation and Community Engagement earlier this month.

The college says the new position is part of its commitment to strengthening ties between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

Carla Kematch has filled this role. She previously developed and launched Art City and has done policy work with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.

“My goal is to strengthen relationships with students, staff and community stakeholders, and to share best practices with the college department on how to integrate Indigenous knowledge on the history and impacts of Indigenous people living in Canada,” she said.

Kematch says the college has done a lot of work to create better access to programming, opportunities, and pathways to post-secondary education for Indigenous students.