Absences, Bias, and New Identities: the Representation of Aboriginal Peoples in Ontario Textbooks and Curricula, 1988-1999

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Binkley, Lisa
Post-Colonial , Aboriginal Peoples , Multiculturalism , Education
Arguably, all Canadian students should have a profound knowledge of Aboriginal peoples’ contribution to Canada’s development as the original inhabitants of Canada. However, Aboriginal peoples continue to be marginalized as though unimportant, and subordinate to other cultural groups in Canada’s culturally plural society. The Ontario mainstream education system plays an important role in perpetuating these social distances. Under the mandate of the provincial government, the public education system is responsible for the delivery of educational programming to all Ontario students. In the 1970s, the federal government introduced the concept of multiculturalism to extend citizenship rights to all culturally diverse groups into Canadian society. To help Canada to become more competitive in a globalizing world, the government has sought to change the image of Canada as a White settler state to one of a global and multicultural society. Yet Aboriginal peoples continue to be marginalized in Canada’s socio-cultural landscape in mainstream education, regardless of heightened awareness for their rights and culture, as well as their being recognized as having the fastest growing demographic in Canada. It is in the context of multiculturalism that this thesis examines the influence of multiculturalism on Aboriginal coverage in mainstream school textbooks. Despite Canada’s proclaimed commitment to multiculturalism, I argue that the production of educational curricula and texts still produces a national imaginary that erases the experiences and concerns of Aboriginal population. Far less effort has been made to change the image of Aboriginal people in that narrative, and how students imagine a globalizing Canada with little attention given to the ongoing forms of discrimination that affect how Aboriginal peoples interact with the rest of the world.
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