More than 30 students, representatives of community organizations, and Indigenous and education partners participated in the fourth community roundtable on anti-racism in education to discuss the K-12 Anti-Racism Action Plan and work to address racism in education.
“We are striving to create an anti-racist education system where everyone feels represented, respected and hopeful for their future,” said Rachna Singh, Minister of Education and Child Care. “Every student, regardless of race, ethnicity or faith deserves equal opportunities in our schools. We will continue to listen and learn from those with lived and living experiences of racism to guide our work and create inclusive school spaces.”
The roundtable included breakout sessions and opportunities for participants to share their stories and provide feedback. The agenda included school districts sharing anti-racism initiatives and reflections for the next steps of the K-12 Anti-Racism Action Plan.
“We all deserve to live in a province where we have equal opportunities to thrive,” said Mable Elmore, Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives. “But racism and discrimination can harm even the youngest people and the impacts can last a lifetime. That’s why we’re working to address systemic racism and discrimination in schools, so that all young people can get the best possible start in life.”
The K-12 Anti-Racism Action Plan, released in January 2023, supports school districts in their commitment to have anti-racism initiatives in school communities. The aim of the action plan is to empower students and educators to identify and take action against racism and discrimination in B.C. schools by raising awareness and creating resources to improve the school experience for racialized students, staff and families. Singh attended the launch of the action plan in Kamloops with almost 200 secondary students who discussed how to better address racism in their schools.
Many school districts have already started anti-racism initiatives. Burnaby School District (SD41) co-hosted a provincewide event for Black Excellence Day with more than 32,000 people attending online and in person, while Surrey School District (SD36) held listening circles throughout the district for school communities to gather and share experiences with racism with more than 500 participants.
Over the past three years, the Province has held ongoing engagements and announced initiatives to address racism, such as developing the Anti-Racism Action Plan; introducing the Indigenous-focused graduation requirement; hosting the community roundtables on anti-racism; supporting the Team Up to End Racism partnership with the BC Lions; developing a guide for educators to support teaching about anti-racism and diverse cultural histories; and hosting youth dialogue series.
Tyrone McNeil, president, First Nations Education Steering Committee –
“Student-outcome data demonstrates an urgent need for change in public education to address the racism of low expectations experienced by many First Nations learners. We welcome concrete measures that ensure our learners receive a quality education and feel safe within B.C. schools. We also look forward to the continued development of a First-Nations-specific anti-racism strategy and implementation of the Declaration Act Action Plan commitment to a review of racism in public education.”
Anita, student, youth dialogue series –
“Through every student voice shared during the youth dialogue series, my own waves of thought evolved with like-minded peers who strive to achieve a future that has persevered through the discrimination present in our school system. No person is shunned nor silenced throughout this dialogue, our experiences are being validated and we are able to collaborate on the change needed to accomplish complete equity to ensure a bright future for all students.”
Bill Brassington, chair, Burnaby Board of Education –
“Change can come from sharing truths, such as at the community roundtable on anti-racism. We’re committed to listening, learning and unlearning. Addressing systemic racism will be a long process and it’s a journey our board and district are dedicated to as we work together with action and hope. The Burnaby School District was honoured to present on our efforts at the minister’s roundtable.”
- Nearly three in five (58%) of B.C. students say they have seen other students insulted, bullied or excluded based on their race or ethnicity.
- B.C.’s 60 school districts and independent schools all 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, including offering 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 about how to identify racism, and updates include links to book lists and resources for adults and children of all ages.
K-12 Anti-Racism Action Plan: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/erase/documents/mental-health-wellness/k-12-anti-racism-action-plan-english.pdf
Erase Racism: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/erase/racism
To learn about the Anti-Racism Data Act, visit: https://engage.gov.bc.ca/antiracism