'I too wish that the work had happened,' says Yukon minister on improving education

·2 min read
Yukon's Education Minister Jeanie McLean. (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Yukon's Education Minister Jeanie McLean. (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Yukon's education minister acknowledged the slow progress made by her government to improve inclusive education, and says the work will take longer.

Minister Jeanie McLean says she hears the frustration from those calling for better inclusive learning.

"It's going to take a bit of time to get us back on track. It's not easy to right the ship and I too wish that the work had happened a decade ago. And it should have," McLean said.

A 2019 report from the Auditor General found the Education Department hadn't done enough to support First Nations students and those who need support. That report says many of the problems were the same as those identified a decade earlier.

This week, the Education Department gave its account to a legislative committee, of how it has responded to that report. McLean said the department is asking for patience while it completes the work.

She said some actions taken include a review of special education, supporting a First Nations school board, working on language revitalization and more.

She told CBC's Elyn Jones, host of Yukon Morning, that the legislative committee hearings this month "were a great review of where we're at with education."

"I think that we were able to really hear from our key partners, some of their frustrations and areas that we need to work on more intently with them," McLean said.

McLean said there will be timelines in place to ensure the targets and promises from the government are followed through on, though she did not give specifics.

As well, McLean said the hearings were a chance to "look at the opportunities that we have and hear from other partners."

"I think, you know, the hearings that we saw this week are a direct reflection of that," she said. "When I was really reflecting on these two hearings that we had over the last two weeks I [came] away empowered by it, by hearing where some of the frustrations may be and the work that I need to do as a leader to work towards relationship building."

Jackie Hong/CBC
Jackie Hong/CBC

'Little demonstrable action'

The first of two hearings – held on Jan. 12 – updated the public on the Yukon government's progress in addressing recommendations contained in the 2019 report, which covers kindergarten to Grade 12 education in the territory.

During that hearing, three members of the Yukon Chiefs Committee on Education — chair Dana Tizya-Tramm, chief of Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, and technicians Melanie Bennett and Daryn Leas — appeared as witnesses before the Legislative Assembly's standing committee on public accounts to answer questions from Yukon politicians.

The representatives painted a bleak picture of efforts to improve public education in the territory since the report came out.

Bennett told the standing committee there has been "little demonstrable action that impacts students directly."

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