Over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, one striking truth we witnessed was the depth of social and racial inequalities it exposed, painfully revealed through the turmoil of an international crisis. It revealed that millions of people still suffer every day solely because of their ethnicity, the neighbourhood they live in, or their socioeconomic status.
The pandemic also showed us that even when we are combatting a crisis of global magnitude, the ongoing hardships and atrocities in the world fuelled by racism and discrimination do not stop because of it. It did not stop a man here in Ontario from deliberately taking four human lives because they were Muslim. It did not stop the Taliban from committing horrid human rights abuses in Afghanistan. And it did not stop a police officer from putting a knee on George Floyd’s neck. Sadly, these are only some of the tragedies that happened this past year.
We have been given a sombre reminder of the deep roots that racism, bias, and discrimination have in the world, now and in history. And we know that those same roots have long been grounded in our education system. In fact, we have acknowledged that racism still exists at the DSBN. But this is not something we accept. We knew this important work could not wait, and we have already started taking meaningful action to make the changes our organization needs; that students, families, and our communities need.
This essential work is being done in part through our Equity Team, the Equity, Inclusion and Anti-Racism Community Advisory Committee, DSBN students, staff, and our community members and partners. It’s being woven into our strategic plan, our policies, initiatives, and into the foundation of the education we deliver.
It’s our responsibility to build a supportive, inclusive, equitable, and progressive environment for students to learn and grow within. Who students grow up to be is influenced by what they experience at school every single day. As an educational organization, we need to equip students with the tools and knowledge they need to create an even better world in the future. When we invest in making the changes students need and deserve, it helps them to feel included, respected, and celebrated at school.
This is only the beginning of an ongoing organizational journey. It requires time and persistent effort. We have taken a few steps forward, with many more ahead of us to take. As we walk towards long-term change, we will continue to work with students, staff and our community to create an inclusive culture, and to ensure we are inspiring and empowering everyone in our school community to achieve their full potential.