Sharing culture to fight racism

Photo caption: Cst. Peter Batt is getting students in Port Alberni, B.C. to share their cultures with each other as a way to learn about different cultures and fight racism in schools. Credit: Cpl. Jay Donahue

As a First Nation community policing officer in Port Alberni, B.C., I work with local schools. Last year, I heard of several instances of racism in the schools, especially against Aboriginal students.

After a discussion with my supervisor, Cpl. Jay Donahue, we decided to develop Culture Share, a program aimed at preventing culturally based bullying or racism among Grade 7 students while teaching them how to cope with such occurrences.

Cpl. Donahue believes that if everyone embraced their own culture, they would be less critical of other cultures. His idea was to use my Scottish culture as a cornerstone for this new program, which has meant delivering some of the lessons wearing my kilt and other regalia.

The program consists of three lessons which teach what racism is, how to deal with it and why pride in culture is important. For the first lesson, we discuss citizenship, culture, multiculturalism and racism with the students. Students learn that most of the racism they encounter is based on ignorance and stereotypes.

For the second lesson, I introduce the Indian Act and explain how Aboriginal potlatches, language, culture and traditional governance were banned and traditional territories were seized.

I compare this to my own Scottish clan's history, highlighting how the same bans and territorial seizures were carried out against the Scottish Highland and Island people. This makes students aware of the cultural parallels between First Nations and Scottish people.

At the end of class, students are assigned to research their own cultural histories. This is an opportunity for them to learn about their family lines and legends.

During the third class, students share what they learned about their cultural histories. As they talk, I point out shared cultural experiences. The class then discusses how to identify with other cultures, the importance of sharing culture, how to deal with racism and cultural harassment as well as the importance of good citizenship.

We have delivered the program since November 2015, with students sharing heroic stories of war and peace, love and loss. The unexpected result of this program is the pride with which children share their culture.

Teachers who have hosted Culture Share have told me they believe the program has assisted them in eliminating racism from their classrooms, including at a school where there was a lot of friction between English and French students.

— Cst. Pete Batt, Port Alberni, E Division

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