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Anti-racism roundtable amplifies voices for action plan

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 4:08 PDT, Thu June 30, 2022

More than 40 community organizations, rightsholders, Indigenous partners, education partners, and students participated in the third Minister's Community Roundtable on Anti-Racism in Education.

The partners met to discuss and address racism in the education system and to provide final feedback to inform the provincial K-12 Anti-Racism Action Plan.

"By working together, we are making progress to dismantle both subtle and obvious forms of racism," said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Education and Child Care. "Through the Community Roundtable on Anti-Racism, everyone has an opportunity to participate and learn from stories, personal reflections, and ideas. We cannot change the past, but by acknowledging, learning from, and teaching about historic and current injustices and inequities, we can make changes together to create a future that is anti-racist. We are thankful for every participant whose voice shaped and informed our multi-year anti-racism strategy to create a culture of belonging for all students, staff, parents, and families."

The roundtable included breakout sessions and group sharing for participants to provide their feedback. The agenda included a student-led presentation about the discussions and recommendations made through the Minister's Youth Dialogue Series held earlier this year between students from throughout the province and Whiteside.

"Our institutions, including schools, are rooted in colonial biases that are still hurting Indigenous people, Black people, and people of colour today," said Rachna Singh, B.C.'s Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives. "Through the Community Roundtable on Racism, we can break down the barriers that have held back people for generations and build a better, anti-racist province for our children and future generations to come."

In the past two years, the Ministry of Education and Child Care has held ongoing engagements and announced initiatives to address racism. This includes hosting the Community Roundtables on Anti-Racism, supporting the Team Up Against Racism partnership with the BC Lions, and developing a guide for educators to support teaching about anti-racism and diverse cultural histories, as well as hosting the Youth Dialogue Series.

In 2020 and 2021, British Columbians navigated significant events of intolerance, inequality, and racism. All were highlighted by various displays and increased acts of discrimination and hatred in Canada and throughout the world. The COVID-19 pandemic deepened vulnerabilities and inequalities faced by racialized communities in B.C. and throughout Canada.

By teaching youth about the impacts of discrimination in B.C. and supporting them to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for responding to racism, government and its partners are creating a generation of future leaders to champion inclusivity and acceptance of people from all ethnicities, as everyone works together to prevent and stop racism.

"Through the Community Roundtable on Anti-Racism, I welcome the opportunity to make and embrace changes to eliminate racism in K-12 education,” says Silvia Mangue Alene, president of the BC Black History Awareness Society. “Whether it's creating awareness about the struggles of racialized communities or celebrating and teaching students the contributions of Black Canadians, we can show compassion for inequalities and educate about our collective history. I look forward to seeing our commitments help build an anti-racism plan to further strengthen diversity, inclusion, and equality among students, teachers, and school staff."

Tyrone McNeil, president of the First Nations Education Steering Committee, said: “First Nation learners continue to face discrimination and racism in B.C. public schools, including the racism of low expectations. The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act became law in November 2019 and includes an article that states Indigenous individuals, particularly children, have the right to all levels and forms of education of the state without discrimination. It will take a significant and coordinated effort of the entire education system to achieve the goal of eradicating racism."

All of B.C.'s 60 school districts and independent schools have safe school co-ordinators and codes of conduct or policies in place that align with the B.C. Human Rights Code. These codes and policies are designed to ensure schools remain free of discrimination against a person based on race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or age of that person or class of persons.

B.C.'s Erase (expect respect and a safe education) strategy addresses anti-bullying, racism, discrimination, and other harmful behaviours in many ways, including an anonymous online reporting tool to report incidents. In 2021, Erase's website was expanded to provide more information for K-12 students, educators, parents, and families on how to identify racism. The updates include links to book lists and resources for adults and children of all ages.

For more on B.C.’s Erase Racism strategy, visit: www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/erase/racism

For more on B.C.’s Anti-Racism Data Act, visit: engage.gov.bc.ca/antiracism

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