By Monika Sidhu — Community organizers are left wondering if appointing an anti-racism supervisor in the Peel District School Board (PDSB) is the best solution to an age-old problem in the education system.
These questions come after Ontario’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce agreed to move forward on a request by the PDSB to appoint a supervisor to oversee anti-Black racism and discrimination.
“We shouldn’t even need that. We shouldn’t need someone to oversee a job that should be done correctly to begin with,” says Taijah Cox-Armstrong, a youth leader for the Peel March for Justice, which drew hundreds to a rally in Brampton last week.
Cox-Armstrong and her colleague CJ Mayers are part of the organization that planned the march from the Brampton Courthouse to the PDSB offices in Mississauga. Participants called for change within the PDSB to address anti-Black racism in Peel Region.
News of the soon-to-be appointed supervisor came one day later.
The request was made by Peel trustees to appoint a supervisor to help create a safe and discrimination free space within the board.
A press release Thursday announcing the motion reads “anti-Black racism is a real and continuing problem in the Peel District School Board that requires not just urgent action, but a united sense of purpose at the board-level that is currently lacking.”
The motion states that the supervisor will be appointed to help the PDSB, Director of Education, senior leadership team as well as remaining staff. The supervisor’s role in assisting these parties will be to ensure a safe space for students and staff—free of discrimination.
The motion comes after Education Minister Stephen Lecce called for changes to be made by PDSB trustees based on a report done by investigator and lawyer Arleen Huggins. The report by Huggins suggested the board has issues understanding anti-Black racism as well as having “questionable governance.”
David Green, Vice-Chair of the PDSB, says he was the trustee who put forth the motion. But, he says there are still many unknowns to be determined, including when the supervisor would be chosen and whether the position will exceed Dec. 31.
“We have no clue,” says Green.
A tweet sent out by Lecce stated that he will be taking immediate action towards bringing in a supervisor with a mission to “stomp out anti-Black racism & all forms of discrimination that has set too many kids back.”
The motion states that the PDSB must give its cooperation to the minister as well as the supervisor. Green says he hopes this person will also work with them.
“Now that it’s in the minister’s hands, the minister will appoint a supervisor, that supervisor will be given a tall marching order that they will have to deliver on. It is my goal to work with whoever that person is if they so choose because they can choose to work with us or they can choose not to. Whichever way they choose I am here to support their work because I personally believe the kids are first and foremost,” says the vice-chair.
Upon hearing that the future supervisor’s term would be up until a minimum of Dec. 31, Cox-Armstrong and Mayers felt like it was just a way to silence the demands and voices of the community.
“So, this is temporary, pretty much,” says Mayers. “They give you hope for two seconds.”
Cox-Armstrong also wondered what would come after Dec. 31.
“What’s the point of having somebody up until December and when they leave the same actions are going to continue?” she asked.
Both youth leaders say want to see real change and more than short-term solutions. They suggest funding would be a better place to start as well as looking into removing police officers from Peel Schools.
The Peel March for Justice has scheduled another rally for June 27 at the PDSB. Event details will be available on their social media pages.
Mayers says he hopes to see rallies, marches and other efforts continue.
“I’d like to see this happening for the rest of the year,” he says.
Cox-Armstrong says she does not want their efforts to get viewed simply as a trend.
“This is not a trend. This is not going to end after a month, two months. This is a lifetime until we really, finally get what we deserve.”
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