Job action cancels aboriginal grad ceremony

NANAIMO – First Nations community is disappointed at the Nanaimo school district's decision to cancel aboriginal graduation ceremonies.

Members of the First Nations community are expressing disappointment at the Nanaimo school district’s decision to cancel aboriginal graduation ceremonies.

Separate from high school convocation in June, aboriginal graduation, originally scheduled for May 22, will not take place this year due to labour action between teachers and the province.

Teachers are in the midst of job action that prevents them from communicating with administration, causing logistical difficulties, according to school district spokeswoman Donna Reimer.

Rather than one central ceremony, each school will be able to hold individual ceremonies. Reimer said high schools could also incorporate aboriginal elements into late-June convocation.

“Schools are able to submit proposals to the Aboriginal Education Department to receive funding to support their plans,” Reimer said.

Chris Beaton, executive director at the Nanaimo Aboriginal Centre, said he understands the circumstances and cancellation has happened before. Nevertheless it is disappointing.

He said for a lot of aboriginal students, graduation isn’t seen as individual success but success for their community and family. They recognize the support the community and family provides.

“Graduation ceremonies are a chance for not only for the graduate to celebrate, but to celebrate the commitment and support and the accomplishment of their entire family and entire community,” Beaton said. “[Aboriginal] grad provided that opportunity for that community-based celebration to happen, so it’s special.”

Natasha Bob, a parent and Nanoose band councillor, echoed Beaton’s comments, adding that members of her family were planning to come in from out of town to see her son graduate.

“I have a son that’s graduating right now and knowing that this is something we’ve been looking forward to for a very long time because our students are a part of an aboriginal network and those relationships are really important to us, to honour and respect.

“I think for myself, personally, it’s a way to honour the relationships with the teachers, the staff and other support workers as well to just acknowledge this big achievement in their life, knowing that many of our students are faced with numerous barriers and getting to this stage in their education is a huge success.”