Carey Newman resigned from the Greater Victoria School District’s Indigenous Ad Hoc Committee May 13, citing ‘a pattern of systemic racism.’ (Courtesy of Carey Newman)

Carey Newman resigned from the Greater Victoria School District’s Indigenous Ad Hoc Committee May 13, citing ‘a pattern of systemic racism.’ (Courtesy of Carey Newman)

‘Pattern of systemic racism’: SD61 Indigenous committee member resigns, calls for change

More than 350 people had added their names in support by midday Friday

A member of the Greater Victoria School District’s (SD61) Indigenous Ad Hoc Committee has resigned from his role in an open letter to the district, citing “a pattern of systemic racism” and “deeply entrenched paternalistic attitudes.”

Carey Newman says recent actions by the district during its budget talks – namely, limiting Indigenous representation during a meeting, and using discriminatory language within its survey and presentation slides – were the final straws, but that the problems started earlier.

In 2017, SD61 hired a non-Indigenous person as District Principal of Indigenous Education. At the same time, the Indigenous woman who had been district coordinator of Indigenous education for several decades retired. Newman says when the district posted her job, it didn’t specify that applicants should be Indigenous.

Concerned, Newman says he reached out to the district and, while the posting wasn’t changed, an Indigenous woman was hired. He was then invited to join the Indigenous Ad Hoc Committee. Newman also has a daughter at Oaklands Elementary School where he and his wife are working with students on a carving project, and runs a scholarship for Indigenous students.

On March 1, during a district education policy and directions meeting, Newman was again concerned when board trustee Ryan Painter noted there were too many Songhees and Esquimalt Nations members present, according to board bylaw. The meeting was subsequently cut short.

Painter didn’t respond to an interview request in time for publication.

In early May, the district released a budget survey where one question asked participants to rank the importance of Indigenous students’ success against that of non-Indigenous ones. Following backlash, the district removed the question and promised data from it would not be used.

READ ALSO: SD61 budget survey question ranks Indigenous learners’ success against others

On May 10 during a board meeting, several presentation slides drew criticism, as under the heading of reconciliation they asked whether Indigenous students participated in band and if music programs would improve their success. Investing in Indigenous education has been listed as a reason the district is making cuts to programs like music.

READ ALSO: SD61 continues to face backlash over approach to Indigenous learners in budget talks

Taken together, Newman wrote, he believes these events are indicative of “a pattern of systemic racism that can no longer be seen as a collection of unfortunate missteps, but rather as proof of deeply entrenched paternalistic attitudes towards Indigenous people and our education that continue to this day.”

He is calling on the district board and administration to publicly apologize for the “cynical and flagrant” use of the word reconciliation, and to develop a transparent plan on how it will change.

“I want a commitment to have Indigenous voices represented at every level of district decision making, not after the fact, impotent, consultation as I have experienced with the ad hoc committee, but as part of the process from beginning to end,” Newman wrote.

The school district didn’t respond to an interview request.

As of midday Friday, more than 350 people had added their names in support of Newman’s letter, including trustees Rob Paynter and Diane McNally. It can be found at docs.google.com.

READ ALSO: Royal BC Museum faces allegations of systemic racism, toxic work environment


Do you have a story tip? Email: jane.skrypnek@blackpress.ca.

Follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and like us on Facebook.

Indigenoussd61

Just Posted

Victoria Truth Centre and Long-term Inmates Now in the Community (L.I.N.C.) Society are hoping to replicate in Langford the format used on Emma’s Farm in Mission, pictured here. (Patrick Penner/Black Press Media)
Victoria Truth Centre hopes to grow transformative justice in Langford

Purchase proposal would see offenders, survivors and families work on organic vegetable farm

Improving safety at Keating Cross Road and the Pat Bay Highway is the goal of the flyover project currently in the works. The province aims to reveal the final cost and design this fall. (Screencap/Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure)
Final budget, design of Keating flyover in Central Saanich still in the works

Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure says information coming by this fall

Tyson Muzzillo, regional manager of BC Cannabis Store, welcomes shoppers to their Uptown location, opening on June 16. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
Government-run cannabis store opening at Saanich’s Uptown

BC Cannabis Store the first for government in Greater Victoria, 27th in province

Mural artist Paul Archer will soon begin work on a piece on the rear of a building at 100 Burnside Road West. (Gorge Tillicum Community Association)
Back of Burnside building in Saanich to feature mural of hope and positivity

Artist Paul Archer says subject will inspire memories, depict children’s future, sunshine, flowers

The stretch of trail north of Royal Bay Secondary connecting to Painters Trail at Murray’s Pond will be closed temporarily this week for invasive species removal. (Black Press Media file photo)
Colwood trail behind Royal Bay Secondary temporarily closed for invasive species removal

Cloure in effect from 9 a.m. Wednesday to 10 a.m. Friday this week

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Most Read