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Feds to Rewrite Policy for ‘Historically Colonial’ Museum Sector: Report

A federal department will hire a number of Canadian indigenous advisors to help rewrite Canada’s 1990 museum policy for the purpose of promoting “equity, diversity and inclusion,” according to a report.

“Recognizing the unique challenges and perspectives of Indigenous peoples in relation to their heritage and the historically colonial museum sector, this contract seeks to gather observations and recommendations on issues related to Indigenous heritage,” wrote the Canadian Heritage Department on Jan. 11 in a notice to contractors obtained by Blacklock’s Reporter.

The department budgets the future consultations at $75,000 and says that indigenous advisors will be paid $100 per hour.

“Advisory services will be paid as appropriate and primarily to elders, knowledge keepers or wisdom keepers for participation in an interview, meeting, focus group or equivalent, and preparation time, at the following rates: $100 per hour,” says the department.

The notice, titled “Engaging Indigenous Partners Towards The Renewal Of Canada’s Museum Policy,” says that Canada’s “colonial past” has caused First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples to see themselves as distinct from Canadians and thus in need of their own historical representation.

“Colonial history and assimilation efforts by Canada, including museums, has affected Indigenous culture, language and heritage,” reads the notice.

Engagements with indigenous advisors will focus primarily on obtaining their perspectives on the roles that museums play “in society, resilience and sustainability in the heritage sector, preservation and access to collections and promoting equity, diversity and inclusion,” says the department.

“The findings and report from the contractor will be used to inform the renewal of the museum policy.”

Historical Review

Parks Canada outlined in its 2019 “Framework For History And Commemoration” a number of ways that the federal government would be seeking to increase the historical representation of indigenous peoples, as well as “confront the legacy of colonialism” in Canadian history.

“The Government of Canada is unwavering in its commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples,” wrote then-Environment Minister Catherine McKenna in the federal plan.

“Parks Canada is uniquely positioned to advance reconciliation and to confront the legacy of colonialism.”

The plan also said it encourages historians to take a “bold approach” to Canadian history—which includes addressing “controversial topics.”

The plan also said that the federal Historic Sites and Monuments Board (HSMBC), which makes recommendations to the minister responsible for Parks Canada to commemorate certain persons, places, and events it deems to be of national historic significance, was carrying out a “careful review of existing designations and their plaque texts” to see if they were still aligned with current historical “perspectives.”

“Perspectives and interpretations of Canada’s history have changed a lot over the last century. Some designations and their commemorative plaques include dated or insensitive content that does not reflect what is known or important to say about the country’s history today,” reads a Parks Canada document titled “Review of existing designations.”

As of August, the HSMBC had compiled a list of over 2,200 historic designations of people, places, and events across Canada that were under review for either “colonial” associations, use of “offensive terms,” “exclusion of Indigenous peoples,” or connections with “controversial views.”

The list included historic figures like Alexander Graham Bell and Jacques Cartier.

Peter Wilson

Peter Wilson is a reporter based in Ontario, Canada.

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