The provincial government has launched a new anti-racism action plan, with Education Minister Rachna Singh at the Henry Grube Education Centre in North Kamloops to announce details.
"We know that Indigenous, black and people of colour may face inequity within the education system," Singh said. “This action plan is a critical step forward for students, educators, staff and families as we all work to create school communities that feel welcoming and supportive for people of all backgrounds."
According to the education ministry, 58 per cent of B.C. students surveyed said they have seen other students insulted, bullied or excluded based on their race or ethnicity.
South Kamloops secondary Grade 12 student Aneecia Thomas was among those speaking at the announcement. Aneecia spoke of how she has been the target of racism. She is involved in fighting racism as part of Motion of Colour, an organization dedicated to racial justice through discussions led by youth and an education-based approach to anti-racism.
The action plan is intended to create change in B.C. schools by raising awareness and creating resources to improve the school experience for racialized students, staff and families, with a goal of having everyone feel a strong sense of belonging.
The education ministry will provide new training opportunities for all school staff to help them better understand their role in fostering anti-racist school environments. The action plan will also allow students and staff to identify biases and address acts of racism or discrimination with new incident-response guidelines.
The action plan will support school districts in their commitment to anti-racism initiatives in their school communities. Partnerships and sharing resources are key elements for school districts to learn from and support each other.
In the Kamloops-Thompson school district, for example, more than 100 students of diverse backgrounds are working with district staff to share their experiences and ideas to help develop a district-wide anti-racism plan.
"As a board of education, we are immensely honoured and grateful to learn from the lived perspectives of students who experience racism," board chair Heather Grieve said. "It is only through their words that we can develop truly authentic action plans for inclusive, safe communities in our district."
The action plan was developed through discussions over three years with students, rights holders and Indigenous partners, education partners, educators and staff, as well as community organizations. Future anti-racism work by the education ministry will continue to incorporate feedback from the education sector and those who have experienced racism.
All school districts and independent schools are required to have codes of conduct and policies to address racism and discrimination. In addition, students and families now have access to more anti-racism resources on the Erase website.
"Racism continues to be the most significant barrier impacting the educational experiences and outcomes of First Nations learners in British Columbia, as underscored by the B.C. auditor general in the 2015 Audit of the Education of Aboriginal Students in the B.C. Public School System,” said Tyrone McNeil, president of the First Nations Education Steering Committee.
“Today's announcement is an important step in our efforts to build a safer and more equitable public education system."
Sonia K. Aujla-Bhullar, of the World Sikh Organization said the launch of the K-12 Anti-Racism Action Plan is a promising step forward.
“To unlearn racism is to address our society's complicity of systemic racism and discrimination that have impacted black, Indigenous and diverse racialized communities, both historically and up to the present day,” Aujla-Bhullar said.
“This is a lifelong and inter-generational journey that requires a courageous curriculum based on foundational understandings of how education can and will act against racism. Most importantly, this plan is one important piece of being accountable to the students and families who have shared their experiences of racism and discrimination while hoping for a better future."