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Petition urging mandatory anti-racism course at University of Toronto gains online support

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A University of Toronto student’s petition calling for mandatory anti-racism courses to be implemented at the institution is receiving growing support online.

Jahnae Jones-Haywood, a fourth-year student of criminology, law and society with a minor in ethics, told Global News Radio 640 Toronto she recently started the petition in response to the death of George Floyd in the United States and to protests that followed in the days following his death.

“I think it should be mandatory at this point because we have students such as myself who have gone through the public or private school system and have not learned the histories, have not learned about oppression, have not learned about discrimination,” she said.

“I think the time is now to start implementing these things as soon as possible so we can all catch up and we can all participate in being actively anti-racist.”

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Jones-Haywood said although she believes there should be greater levels of anti-racism education beginning in elementary school, it’s just as important in post-secondary institutions and to educate those who are embarking on new careers.

“Being anti-racist is an ongoing learning process. There should be a continuous step forward in that process as you get older,” she said, adding she hopes similar anti-racism courses are enacted at institutions across Canada.

“This is about our social conditioning. This is about human beings understanding that we need to be anti-racist in every facet of our lives. It’s not about the profession you want to get into.”

READ MORE: Combatting racism in the workplace begins at the top, but many people of colour can’t get there: experts

Global News contacted the University of Toronto to ask if school officials were aware of the petition and the call for mandatory anti-racism courses. The university issued a statement Thursday evening

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“The University strives to incorporate equity, diversity and inclusion into our curriculum and our practices, and looks at these considerations when we examine academic program changes and reviews,” a spokesperson wrote in a statement.

“Decisions about academic programs are made at the level of each school or faculty. Course requirements are developed in a way that is appropriate and meaningful for each program of study across our 18 academic divisions and contextualized within a student’s academic experience.”

The statement went on to say that courses are offered across the university’s three campuses related to anti-Black racism and in several programs, including public health, sociology and Canadian studies.

Officials also said the university has an anti-racism and cultural diversity office that provides education and training and looking into community complaints as well as equity offices at each university campus.

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“The University of Toronto condemns all forms of racism, harassment and discrimination and acknowledges the pain, anguish and deep frustration this causes to members of our community,” the statement said.

READ MORE: Increasing calls for Ontario government to declare anti-Black racism public health crisis

“We are focused on ensuring U of T’s campuses and communities are inclusive and welcoming for all.

Meanwhile, Jones-Haywood’s petition received more than 5,300 signatures as of Thursday evening and many wrote comments in support of the need for anti-racism education.

She said she’s hoping to have support from students and faculty before delivering the petition to the president’s office at the University of Toronto.