A 1980s court case involving CN Rail and the Canadian Human Rights Commission determined that CN Rail would need a ‘critical mass’ of women in its employment to break the continuing cycle and culture of systemic discrimination and harassment of women workers within the organization. This case laid the groundwork for subsequent employment equity laws across Canada.
The concept of ‘critical mass’ is important if the potential of racialized and Black teachers and education workers is to be realized within the education system. They need to see themselves represented in the system as part of a welcoming and inclusive culture.
That is also true for Black students:
“We know that anti-Black racism is operating within education because of the outcomes we see for Black students. Disproportionate streaming into the lowest streams, over-representation in suspension and expulsion rates, lack of representation of Black staff in the school’s physical environment, lack of curricular inclusion of Black people and Black ways of knowing, over-representation of Black students pushed out of education (otherwise known as the drop-out rate), lack of Black student involvement in academic and leadership spaces, and over-representation in athletic programs… As a result, Black students learn that they are both invisible and hyper-visible at any given time… They question their capabilities and begin to understand education as an unsafe space and experience for them.” 1
Kike Ojo-Thompson, Principal Consultant, Kojo Institute
There must be a concerted effort among all stakeholders to address barriers in recruitment, hiring and retention policies and procedures. Anti-Black racism training for all education leadership, staff, teachers and education workers is key to achieving institutional and systemic change and to creating organizational cultures that are welcoming and inclusive of Black educators and students. The Ministry of Education and other organizations must adequately fund and resource initiatives that address anti-Black racism.
Collection of Race-Based Data
All educational institutions and organizations must collect race-based data as both a benchmark and an ongoing measure of progress in evaluating efforts to end anti-Black racism.
School Boards/Ministry of Education:
Faculties of Education:
Ontario Principals’ Council (OPC):
Ongoing Training of Administration, Trustees and Others
It takes time to identify and change prejudice, stereotyping and discrimination against Black people. These issues may stem from personal beliefs and attitudes or can be inherent in organizational and institutional systems.
To achieve institutional and systemic change there needs to be an understanding of what anti-Black racism is among leaders and administrators of school boards, including trustees and faculties of education, This understanding must include the impact that daily occurrences of racism, including microaggressions, have on relationships, procedures and systems, as well as on individual mental health. That institutional awareness and change permeates all levels of the system, including awareness among teachers, education workers and staff.
Trainers dedicated to equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-oppression are best equipped to support institutional and systemic change within organizations by designing programs for all tiers of an organization.
Recruitment and Retention of Black Educators/Candidates
Recruitment of Black candidates in education is a key element in building a critical mass of Black educators to ensure public education is reflective of the people it serves and provides a better experience for Black youth and adults.
Faculties of Education:
ETFO Partnership Initiatives:
Curriculum Reform and Associated Training
ETFO supports calls by the Ontario Black History Society, Black families and others for the Ontario government to make Black studies a greater part of the public elementary curriculum.
Racism is a learned behaviour that can be mitigated through education of Ontario’s youngest learners. While there are topics in Ontario’s curriculum that relate to anti-racism and anti-discrimination, and options for more in-depth teaching, explicit learning expectations related to Black history and issues must be built into the curriculum.
Ministry of Education:
Faculties of Education:
The Ministry of Education and publicly-funded school boards must collect and maintain race-based data, and must use that data to improve conditions and opportunities for Black educators and students. In addition,
Ontario College of Teachers:
College of Early Childhood Educators:
Standards of practice with respect to incidents of anti-Black racism must be consistently upheld
1 Learning to Critically Address Anti-Black Racism: Voice in Conversation with Kike Ojo-Thompson, Principal Consultant, Kojo Institute. ETFO Voice (Summer 2020)