Advocates for B.C.’s Black community say a proposal to enhance the province’s curriculum on Black history is long overdue.
B.C.’s education minister said Tuesday the province is looking at ways to include more Black history in the province’s K-12 classrooms.
Rob Fleming made the comments as the United States faces ongoing demonstrations over racism, inequality and police brutality following the death of Minneapolis Black man George Floyd while in the custody of white police officers.
“When you look at what is happening in the United States, when you look at the discussion around systemic racism which is in British Columbia and Canada, we want to work as a government … to make sure we are being inclusive, that we are tackling systemic racism in all its forms, and obviously the education system plays a critically important role,” said Fleming.
“It’s a place to tackle racism, to undo the corrosiveness of prejudice.”
Fleming says he has written to the B.C. Black Historical Awareness Association for input, and will have more to say in the coming days.
Markiel Simpson, spokesperson for the B.C. Community Alliance is encouraging British Columbians to write the ministry calling for a Canadian Black history curriculum, along with a database of racism in B.C. schools.
“They’re vocally supporting ending anti-Black racism and racism in general, and I’m hoping they take concrete steps to implementing solutions,” he told Global News.
“Decolonization of education in general, where those who had been oppressed such as Black folks and Indigenous peoples are finally being showcased as contributors to our society.”
Sadie Kuehn, a human rights activist and Vancouver’s first Black school trustee, told Global News the importance of representation to young people can not be overstated.
“The difference of being able to see yourself reflected, and the impact that makes on you, in terms of validating who you are and saying that you are important and valued and present, is psychologically and emotionally really important,” she said.
But while Kuehen said she’s excited and encouraged by Fleming’s comments, she’ll be watching closely to see how they translate into action.
“I hear what people say, but what is most important is what they do,” said Kuehen.
“So I will take the minister and his government at their word, that they will look into including Black history in the curricula. I think it’s long overdue.”
Kuehn said if the province is serious about enhancing the presence of Black history in B.C.’s school curriculum, it will have to ensure that Black voices are involved in developing the materials.
And she said the changes shouldn’t just be about history.
Kuehn added that if the province is serious about improving its curriculum it should also seek to enhance its representation of Indigenous peoples and women.