A new provincial community roundtable designed to help develop an antiracism plan for B.C. schools has held its first meeting.
The inaugural meeting, held July 24, brought together community leaders from across the province to develop new policies and programs that will make up an antiracism "action plan" for the K-12 curriculum.
"Now is the time to listen, learn, engage and act," Education Minister Rob Fleming said in a July 24 release. "We are committed to working with community and education partners to build a meaningful and lasting anti-racism action plan to ensure schools are safe and welcoming places where diversity is celebrated."
To make sure the beliefs and cultures of all students and staff in the education system are understood and accepted, especially those of Indigenous students and students of colour, a series of similar meetings will be held as the action plan is developed. As well, students will be able to relate their own experiences to a new student advisory group starting this fall.
The release noted that Fleming also requested the Métis Nation B.C., the First Nations Leadership Council, and the First Nations Education Steering Committee to aid in setting up a "distinct" Indigenous table.
"There is no place for racism, discrimination or intolerance in British Columbia—in our schools or anywhere else," Premier John Horgan said in the release. "We are bringing important voices to the table to help us bolster culture-based learning in the education system and build a better and more inclusive future for B.C."
Fleming said in the release that the initiative is timely. "Now is the time to listen, learn, engage and act. We are committed to working with community and education partners to build a meaningful and lasting anti-racism action plan to ensure schools are safe and welcoming places where diversity is celebrated."
Incidents of anti-Asian violence and other hate-related incidents, as reported by Vancouver police on July 16, have more than doubled this year to 155 compared to the 69 reported during the same time period in 2019. And after Donald Trump became president of the U.S. in 2017, according to Statistics Canada figures on police-reported criminal incidents motivated by hate, there was a 47 percent increase in such crimes across Canada.
Community dialogues led by Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon across the province in the summer of 2019 preceded the announcement last November of a new antiracism network called Resilience B.C., which is being set up in 40 communities. The new network will provide training and support to deal with racism at both local and regional levels.
All of the province's school districts have policies that reflect the B.C. Human Rights Code regarding discrimination based on race, ancestry, colour, religion, or place of origin, among other criteria.
The president of the First Nations Education Steering Committee, Tyrone McNeil, said in the release: "Recent events demonstrate the imperative for concrete measures to address racism in our society and the responsibility of the province to act. By including a mandatory course on First Peoples as part of B.C.'s K-12 graduation requirements, we can ensure that every student graduates with an understanding of First Peoples' perspectives, cultures, and histories. This is a widely supported measure that will contribute to significant change in the province."
And Teri Mooring, president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation, said in the release that the province's instructors welcome the new action plan. "Confronting racism in our schools and society is important work," Mooring said. "All students will benefit from an enhanced focus on antiracism in the K-12 curriculum. We are very happy to contribute to this important initiative."