The Alberta NDP is promising to create a Somali curriculum if elected in the province’s spring general election.
NDP Education Critic Sarah Hoffman challenged her United Conservative Party government counterpart during Question Period on Monday, saying the government hasn’t prioritized supporting youth learning in Alberta schools.
“Given that we’re in the NDP, and we are committed to making sure that all students in Alberta schools have the tools they need to be supported,” Hoffman said, before announcing the party’s latest election pitch.
“So why didn’t the current education minister or anyone in UCP make this a priority,” she continued. “They’ve had four years.”
Education Minister Adriana LaGrange responded that school authorities already have the flexibility to develop or acquire locally developed courses to address particular student or community needs, including language and culture.
“Mr. Speaker, we do that on an ongoing basis in education each and every day,” she said. “We celebrate every community.”
In response to the video circulating online, one Twitter user asked Hoffman to explain what a Somali curriculum is.
The NDP deputy leader said it’s “a chance to learn language and culture of Somolia just like many other languages we offer in Alberta schools: French, German, Spanish…”
Hoffman did not comment on whether teaching Somali culture would extend to teaching the nation’s views on LGBTQ+ rights. It’s illegal to openly practice an LGBT lifestyle in Somalia, an offense punishable by up to three years in prison. Same-sex sexual activity is punishable by up to death in areas controlled by Al-Shabab,a jihadist military organization based in Somalia and active elsewhere in East Africa.
According to a 2016 Statistics Canada census, 62,550 people reported Somali ancestry. Edmonton has a large population of Somali Canadians and the Somali Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton (SCCSE) was established as a non-profit organization in 1991 “to meet the needs of the Somali Canadian community in Edmonton and its surroundings.”
The Alberta NDP already has a strong hold over Edmonton. In the 2019 election, the NDP won all but one of the 19 seats in Edmonton — that went to Kaycee Madu, who was named Deputy Leader under Premier Danielle Smith.
Alberta will head to the polls on May 29.