New report finds anti-racism strategies inconsistent and under-resourced across Canada
Ontario principals report challenges in implementing anti-racism plans
For immediate release
TORONTO (January 16, 2022) – A new report from People for Education – based on a pan-Canadian scan of anti-racism policy and legislation; data from the 2021-22 Annual Ontario School Survey; and findings from a scan of the websites of Ontario’s 72 school boards – shows significant gaps in the implementation of anti-racism strategies across Canada and in Ontario.
Anti-racism policy missing from Ministry of Education website
In a September 2021 letter, Ontario’s Deputy Minister informed school boards that starting in May 2022, they would be expected to submit annual Board Improvement and Equity Plans (BIEPs) that included student demographic and outcomes data and equity-focused action plans. Since then, mention of the Board Improvement and Equity Plans has disappeared from Ontario’s Ministry of Education website.
A scan of Ontario school board websites and available provincial infomration found that by the summer of 2022, 74% of school board websites mention racism in their equity policies, 67% of school boards had begun collecting demographic data, and 28% of school boards published anti-racism strategies or approaches online.
In responses to the 2021-22 Annual Ontario School Survey, principals reported many challenges in implementing anti-racism strategies in their schools including being understaffed and having limited bandwidth to add new initiatives because of the pressures resulting from more than two years of disruption connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The picture across Canada
In 2019, the government of Canada committed $45 million to support a three-year Anti-Racism Strategy, but the report points out that because Statistics Canada continues to ask Canadians only if they identify as a “visible minority”, data cannot be disaggregated into specific racial groupings, making it difficult, if not impossible for systems to know what disparities exist among different populations.
Only 6 of Canada’s 13 provinces and territories have anti-racism policies or legislation, and a recent United Nations report on Canada’s progress in implementing the Rights of Child was highly critical, pointing to the absence of a national strategy and implementation framework and a lack of pan-Canadian data collection.
Recommendations for change
The report from People for Education articulates three overall recommendations for change – in Ontario and Canada:
- Name the problem – It is crucial to remove societal taboos around race and create an environment where students and staff feel safe to critically engage in conversations around race and racism. Currently, only 40% of Ontario school boards have published anti-racism statements on their websites, and 26% have an equity policy that does not include any mention of race or racism.
- Collect data and provide regular reports – Collecting disaggregated identity-based data is a critical starting point that allows for the identification of inequities present in systems, but it is only one piece of a puzzle. Beyond collecting the data, this information should be regularly and publicly reported to promote institutional transparency and accountability. In Ontario, School Board Equity and Improvement Plans are a vital start in both promoting transparency and identifying inequities.
- Provide resources to support policy – Efforts should be made to dedicate time and resources to seek out and build partnerships with individuals, groups, and community organizations who have been historically impacted by discrimination. However, instead of being viewed as one step in the decision-making process, this needs to be centred and supported with resources and staff, throughout the process. In Ontario, only 37% of principals report having partnerships with community-based organizations dedicated to promoting anti-racism.
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