TC² @ 25
Focus for This Month
Success Stories
Next Steps
Media Release
TC² @ 25
Focus for This Month
Success Stories
Next Steps
Media Release

May: Offering the Support You Need to Promote Reconciliation

Walk for Reconciliation

Senator Murray Sinclair tells us that education “holds the key to reconciliation…. Knowing what happened will lead to understanding. Understanding leads to respect.”1

Teachers know that Senator Sinclair is calling on them to play a significant role in reconciliation. Many of them share his sense of urgency and feel inspired to contribute to reconciliation. Yet many also feel a sense of trepidation.

Willing but hesitant

Why do some teachers pause when faced with the challenge of helping students explore reconciliation? Through its interactions with educators across the country, The Critical Thinking Consortium (TC²) identified several possible reasons for teachers’ caution:

  • Some felt they didn’t know the history well enough to teach it.
  • Some couldn’t trust their resources.
  • Some didn’t know how to deal with the many common assumptions about Canadian history.
  • Some didn’t feel qualified to represent Indigenous views.
  • Some were uncertain as to how to help their students contribute to reconciliation in respectful and authentic ways.
At TC², we believe our teaching approach can help teachers address these concerns.

A collaborative approach to the creation of resources

TC² has long recognized that powerful pedagogy is “forged with, not for.”2 We believe that a truly collaborative approach could lead to meaningful contributions to reconciliation. So we began a collaboration with the Grand Erie District School Board, Six Nations of the Grand River’s Education Department, and the Mississaugas of New Credit to develop a guide for teaching about the residential school system and reconciliation.

Before we began, however, we paused to rethink our process. The team decided to start from scratch, asking questions, listening deeply, returning to community members with ideas drawn from their input, and working together closely to build a resource that reflects the hopes of the community. Teachers across Canada are now using the resulting resource—What Can I Contribute to Meaningful Reconciliation?—to help their students explore the residential school system and reconciliation.

Thus began TC²’s ongoing effort to better support teachers with rich, challenging inquiries, inspiring facilitators, and reliable resources co-developed with Indigenous educators and communities specifically for the reconciliation effort.

TC²’s record of helping us see what we do not want to see

Since its inception 25 years ago, TC² has focused on supporting teaching and learning that empowers people to “learn how to recognize what we have trained ourselves not to see."3 This approach—to help students question the assumptions of others as well as their own—lends itself beautifully to critical inquiry related to Canada’s relationship with Indigenous peoples. Thinking critically about the relationships, the histories, and the stories helps students recognize the truths that need to be acknowledged as part of reconciliation.

Helping students understand the past and contribute in the present

Reflecting the TC² approach, our resources require more of the student than the simple acceptance or memorization of content. Take, for example, a study of the residential school system in Canada. Instead of suggesting that students merely learn and recall certain historical facts, TC² might suggest that teachers invite students to identify the most significant causes of injustices stemming from the residential school system or to evaluate the appropriateness of government responses in the present day.

Helping students contribute to reconciliation in a meaningful way

Similarly, the TC² approach supports students’ ability to make meaningful contributions to reconciliation. For example, teachers might help students to develop a “toolkit for reconcili-action”: a repertoire of thinking tools that the student can draw on when engaging in issues related to reconciliation. These tools might include strategies for

  • interacting critically with resources
  • listening and learning from Elders
  • paying attention to their own and others’ emotions when engaging in issues related to reconciliation
Students “assemble” their toolkits as their teacher nurtures the development of each strategy. (Note: Guidance for nurturing all three of these thinking tools can be found in TC²’s Tools for Thought collection of lessons.) Students can then draw upon the strategies as needed.

Still so much to learn

At TC², we see that our efforts to develop teaching and learning resources, facilitate professional learning, and build partnerships are making a difference. At the same time, we are acutely aware that we still have much to learn.

Please reach out to TC² to share with us your experiences of using critical inquiry in the classroom to promote reconciliation and to explore with us opportunities for collaborative projects that can contribute to reconciliation.

—The TC² Team

Send us an email!


1 Senator Murray Sinclair, “Reconciliation: The Role of Education,” Accessed April 10, 2019.
2 Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2017), p. 48.
3 J.R. Saul, A Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada (Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2008), p.35.

Photo by Mike Gifford/flickr | (CC BY-NC 2.0)