Programs & Services - Aboriginal Education

Aboriginal Education

The annual Qayqayt Honouring and Rite of Passage ceremony recognizes and honours important school transitions in the lives of Aboriginal learners and takes place annually.

Supporting Student Success

The Aboriginal Education Program is designed to support the academic and social success of all Aboriginal students in New Westminster Schools. New Westminster’s urban Aboriginal population has remained fairly constant over the last decade, and consists of Aboriginal families of First Nations, Métis and Inuit ancestries from all over North America.

New Westminster Schools signed an Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement on October 7, 2004 – the first urban (off reserve) Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement developed in the province.

In the spirit of Reconciliation, New Westminster Schools implemented our third and most recent agreement, a five-year plan for 2018-2023 supporting the academic, social and cultural achievement of Aboriginal students.

A Shared Responsibility…

“For reconciliation to work, and for our relationship to be renewed, there must be awareness, acceptance, apology, atonement and action.”   ~ Senator Murray Sinclair, Chair, Truth and Reconciliation Commission

For the first time, this Agreement also includes a commitment ensuring all learners (staff, students and community) will continue to increase their understanding and knowledge of Aboriginal history, culture and perspectives.

The Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement of 2018-2023 was endorsed by the New Westminster Schools Board of Education in January 2019, and is being shared across the district.

The Board also officially committed in January 2019 to implementing recommendations outlined by Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Commission was established to bear witness to the impacts of more than 130 residential schools in Canada that segregated 150,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit children from their families and communities. The policy sought to eradicate First Nations’ language and culture and assimilate Indigenous peoples into the dominant culture. More than 3,200 children died of disease; the last school closed in 1998. The commission heard from more than 6,000 witnesses and issued 94 Calls to Action

.Our latest agreement was developed with the support of students, families, district staff, and partner groups on the district Aboriginal Education Advisory Committee.  They included Chief Rhonda Larrabee of the Qayqayt First Nation, Elder Keely George of the Douglas First Nation, along with representatives from Douglas College and Simon Fraser University, Aboriginal Child and Youth Mental Health, and other stakeholders.

Together, through a process of collaboration, consultation and consensus, these representatives set goals for Aboriginal student achievement for 2018-2023.

Our Four Goals…

The New Westminster Schools Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement for 2018-2023 highlights four key goals, along with the indicators that will measure progress in reaching them:

  • Goal 1: Belonging and Culture: Aboriginal students will develop pride, confidence and self-esteem through the affirmation of their ancestral identity.
  • Goal 2: Academics: Aboriginal learners will improve performance in grades 4 through 7 in numeracy, reading and writing.
  • Goal 3: Transitions: Aboriginal students will successfully transition from Kindergarten to Grade 12 and beyond.
  • Goal 4: Reconciliation: All learners in New Westminster Schools (students, staff and community) will continue to increase their understanding and knowledge of Aboriginal history, culture and perspectives.

When it comes to Goal 4, “the call is for each school to ask what Reconciliation will look like in its community,” said Bertha Lansdowne, district coordinator for Aboriginal programs.

These goals were developed with the guidance of the Aboriginal Advisory committee, parent and student representatives, District Administrators, principals and vice-principals, union  leaders, and representatives of post-secondary and community organizations.

See our five-year (2018-2023) Agreement here:

See Related:
"A New Westminster Schools Journey Toward Reconciliation 
"Taking Reconciliation to Heart"

For more information on the supports and services available for Indigenous students in Kindergarten to Grade 12 please contact Connie Swan, District Vice-Principal for Indigenous Education, at 604-220-6140.


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