A report on the state of discrimination and inclusion at one of Quebec’s largest school boards has just been released.
The review stems from a number of racist incidents in summer 2020 which involved students within the Lester B. Pearson School Board, including a video which circulated on social media in which two students who attended a school in Pointe Claire danced in blackface.
“Several racist incidents that occurred last year in the Lester B. Pearson school board community served as a wakeup call for us,” board chairman Noel Burke, admitted.
In response to the incidents, the school board asked McGill University psychologist Dr. Myrna Lashley to establish a group to look into issues of discrimination within the schools.
Now, almost a year later, the Task Force on Equity and Diversity and Inclusion, made up of school administrators, parents and members of the community, issued a report.
“It is an invitation to look at ourselves in the mirror,” Burke pointed out during an online press conference to present the report.
The hundred-plus page document looks at the state of various forms of discrimination within the schools. It includes first person accounts from students and parents of their experiences with things like racial, ethnic, religious and gender biases.
Lashley said she wasn’t expecting the number of stories submitted to the group.
“I was really surprised at that and the letters coming in and how honest they were,” said Lashley.
She believes one reason there were so many testimonies is that people from marginalized groups were given the opportunity to share what’s been happening to them.
“I think they were grateful that somebody was finally saying, ‘look, we want to hear what you have to say.’ ”
The report also makes numerous recommendations for each category of discrimination. One common to all is for education for teachers about diversity and inclusiveness.
Omari Newton, who gives lectures on Black history, agrees.
In March, during his presentation to one of the schools on the origins of the N-word, a white teacher verbally attacked him.
The school board says the next step is to put together a working group to study the report and to implement the recommendations.