'Most Teachers Don't Know Who First Nations Are'

Only five per cent of British Columbia's population has First Nation or Metis ancestry. But find yourself on Vancouver's notorious East Hastings strip, and you could be forgiven for thinking the ratio was much higher.

The neighbourhood is no reflection of British Columbia's entire Aboriginal population, nor is it where most live. What the disproportionately high First Nations and Metis population in the Downtown Eastside does illustrate, tragically, is the nightmare consequences of a singular social and political failure.

The historic cultural repression of residential schools, and a public school curriculum that ignores Aboriginal existence in Canada, have created generations of spiritually and financially impoverished individuals, bruised by a system indifferent to their needs, who often turn to addiction, crime or begging to survive.

More First Nations and Metis people live in British Columbia than any other province, and many are young. Just over one in 10 students going back to school this month in B.C. identify themselves as Aboriginal.

Yet for decades, their chances of emerging from Grade 12 with a diploma have been less than 50-50.

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