Iqaluit student sits during national anthem to make statement about residential school curriculum

A 12-year-old student in Iqaluit says he ended up in the principal’s office after he sat during the Canadian anthem to make a statement about how the history of residential schools is taught.

“I guess I just wanted to make a statement for… changes in school,” Miles Brewster said. “Like more education about the past… like what happened to the First Nations and Inuit. They had to go to residential school.”

It started on Sept. 30 — Orange Shirt Day — a day dedicated to survivors of Canada’s residential schools. Miles was having a difficult time in school and his mother, Janet Brewster, says he was disappointed when his class didn’t talk about the reason they were donning orange shirts.

“He thought that it was really ironic that they were asked to do that, yet he’s… not learning about our lived history as Inuit,” she said.

“Miles has been having concerns with what’s going on in his own classroom. And has felt that it hasn’t been a very safe or respectful environment for him.”

Brewster said she and Miles have always had an open discussion about her mother and stepfather’s experiences in residential schools. Miles is named after Brewster’s stepfather, who died by suicide after years of struggling to cope with the abuse he suffered at residential school in Inuvik.

“As Inuit, we always tell the story of who you’re named after,” Brewster said. “He knows about the impact of the residential schools through the story of his name.”

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