An accredited course teaching Halq̓eméylem to students from the Matsqui First Nation is among the new items added to a new education agreement between the First Nation and the Abbotsford School District.
The local education agreement (LEA) was officially signed in March this year and brought before school board in May, where it was passed without comment from trustees.
Two courses, Intro to Halq̓eméylem 11 and Halq̓eméylem 11, will be offered at Clayburn Middle and Robert Bateman Secondary schools as multi-aged courses outside the regular timetable.
As well, the district and First Nation will develop programs at Matsqui and Bradner elementary schools to teach Halq̓eméylem, a dialect of the Indigenous language spoken in part of Vancouver Island and along the Fraser River.
The newly signed agreement is the newest iteration, after the last one expired in 2005, according to a staff report. The current agreement will be in effect until January 2022, and came after numerous meetings between the district and the First Nation.
The board has also agreed to provide transportation services to students from Matsqui First Nation, a program developed in a “joint transportation plan” that was signed in April this year.
The new agreement also includes the “inclusion of additional fees to support the participation in extra-curricular activities” and the First Nation’s input into programs and direction in the catchment schools for Matsqui First Nation.
“Coming to an agreement is a testament to the commitment and partnership with our local Aboriginal community,” secretary-treasurer Ray Velestuk wrote in a report. “LEAs represent an important opportunity to build more productive and respectful relationships.”