March 29/21: Former Board Chair Edith Loring Kuhanga’s Speech to SD61 Board

Edith Loring-Kuhanga’s Speech

Presented to the SD61 Board of Education on Monday March 29, 2021

 

First of all, I want to acknowledge the true rightful holders of the traditional territories of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations where we are privileged to live, learn and work. I also want to acknowledge the W’SANEC territory where I have had the honour to live and raise my family for over three decades.

I am here tonight to speak on a few things that I witnessed at the Monday March 1st 2021 Education Policy & Directions Committee Meeting [click for Youtube link] and the motion from Trustee McNally

[ McNally:  a)That the Superintendent abandon the present 4 choice plan for Craigflower and Shoreline, and restart  the planning process under the  active and direct guidance from the Lkwungen community in order to create a school that  honours the culture, history, and wisdom of Lkwungen People in its design, vision, goals, & curriculum. b) That the Board of Education respectfully request direct updates from the Chiefs or delegates of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations, reporting times and methods of reporting to be determined by Chiefs and Councils. ]

which was instantly and incorrectly ruled out of order, regarding consultation with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations. This motion was in accordance to Policy 1163 Consultation Process that states, “It is a process, not an outcome, which involves interaction between decision makers and those affected by the decisions. It promotes a two-way flow of information and ideas to arrive at better solutions and, consequently, more effective implementation of policy and programs.”

I am very sad that I felt that I had to come and speak to you tonight. Many of you around the Board table were my colleagues when I was honoured and privileged to serve as your Chair for 4 years.

However, I felt that it was not only my civic duty to come and speak to you tonight but my ethical and moral responsibility, both as a past School Trustee and as a First Nations person.

First of all, I would like to talk about process of SD61 Standing Committees. During the 7 years (2011 to 2018) that I was on the board, one of our goals was to develop mutual respectful relationships with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations. The Board recognized the importance of having both Nations at the Board Table, not only to teach and guide us on what was important for their children but to teach and guide us on all children and families within the Greater Victoria area.

We, the Board of Education valued the Nations’ input which is why we unanimously passed a motion on May 16, 2016 to include both Nations as partner groups. Article #5 & #6 of Bylaw 9360 General Meeting of the Board encourages the “public to attend a Committee meeting … in order to facilitate dialogue with the public before decisions are made. Discussion and debate of issues takes place at standing committee meetings.”

Not only did the Chair of the Standing Committee appear shocked that the Education partners were in attendance at the meeting but you were also unsure if Trustee McNally’s motion was in line with your own policies and by-laws. Had her motion passed at the Committee meeting, it would have opened up the door to engage both Nations in meaningful dialogue with the School District and we wouldn’t be discussing this tonight.

Because Education Policy and Directions Standing Committee Chair Ryan Painter was unsure of how to proceed, he referred all questions regarding process and procedures to the Board Chair, Jordan Watters and by-passed the Committee Members. In accordance with Robert’s Rules and your own policies, the Chair of the Board is like any other trustee at committee meetings. However, that evening Board Chair Watters made a unilateral decision to end the meeting. To add more insult to injury, she commended Chair Ryan Painter on doing a good job of his mistreatment of the Nations.

Although I understand that the pandemic changed the logistics of how we conduct our meetings, it shouldn’t have changed our moral obligation to treat one another with kindness and respect.

Secondly, I would like to discuss Policy 3711 regarding School Closures which states, that persons in the community who are significantly affected … will be given an adequate opportunity to provide input on the proposal before a final decision is made”.

In 2017, the Board of Education asked the Nations to dream about what the future of Craigflower and Shoreline could entail. They participated in those initial discussions and dreamed big. However, the Board of Education and senior leadership team developed a number of options that were presented to both Nations and the community at large which did not take into consideration the feedback that the Nations provided in 2017.

At an online community meeting on January 27, 2021 [unrecorded…] Chief Ron Sam stated that he and the community did not accept any of the options that were presented to them and he was under the impression that discussions were far from concluded. Rather than listening to his concerns, the Board of Education and senior leadership team ignored his feedback, once again. However, Trustee McNally listened and brought forward her motion to the Education Policy meeting to terminate the current process.

Thirdly I am going to discuss the motion that was passed at the March 8th OPPS meeting and is up for discussion and debate tonight.

[From Superintedent Green: That the Board of Education of School District No. 61 (Greater Victoria) suspend the Craigflower School Closure public consultation plan timeline and direct the Superintendent to meet with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations to discuss how they would like to proceed.]

I must say that I am pleased that the Board of Education and senior leadership are recommending to suspend the current Craigflower School Closure public consultation plan but I do not agree that the Board should direct the Superintendent to meet with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations. With all due respect to Superintendent Green, this is no longer an administrative issue. This has become a political issue and therefore the Board of Education needs to request a meeting with the Songhees Chief and Council and the Esquimalt Chief and Council and not delegate it to their administrator.

Relationships and trust have been damaged between the Nations and the Board of Education. Since Chair Watters encouraged Committee Chair Painter to treat the Nations with the utmost disrespect, and therefore lost all of their confidence and respect, I strongly recommend that the Board of Education direct Vice Chair Elaine Leonard to contact and coordinate the meetings between the Board and the Nations.

[At D.2 a, McNally: amendment: That the Board of Education of School District No. 61(Greater Victoria) suspend the Craigflower School Closure public consultation plan timeline and direct the Superintendent to meet with the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations to discuss how they would like to proceed.  the Board Chair and Vice Chair to write to the Chiefs and Councils of the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations expessing the Board’s willingness to meet to listen to the Nations on the Nations’ terms, regardding their vision for the future of the Shoreline and Craigflower buildings, and the Nations’ vision for education on those sites.   // Defeated ]

Finally, thank you for listening to me tonight. I pray that the outcome between the Board of Education and the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations will heal over time and that the children, families and communities will be better served by the Greater Victoria School Board and District.

I will forward the Board Secretary my speech and ask that it be distributed to all trustees and included in the correspondence section of the board minutes.        Thank you.

Nox Gyes, Edith Loring-Kuhanga, past Chair, Greater Victoria School Board of Education (2014-2018) Email: loringkuhanga@gmail.com

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