City Council Responds strongly to Peel Schools anti-Black racism inaction

Peter Joshua - Peel District School Board's Director of Education. © 2020 Brampton Focus Community Media

Supported by a wave of anti-racism movements happening worldwide, Brampton City Council is taking action against anti-Black racism by demanding answers from the Peel District School Board. On Wednesday June 10th, a motion was unanimously passed by the Brampton City Council to take action via the form of a letter written to the Minister of Education, Stephen Lecce.

In response to a devastating report on anti-black racism released earlier this year, the Minister of Education issued 27 binding directives to the Peel District School Board in March to address, among other things, systemic discrimination, specifically anti-Black racism. After these directives failed to be met in the allotted time, the Minister of Education appointed a second advisor who revealed that the Board is “lacking both the ability and capacity, and perhaps even more importantly, the will” to address the issues uncovered in the original report.

Ward 7 City Councillor Charmaine Williams, the first black woman elected to the Brampton City Council, put forward a motion to write a letter from the Mayor of Brampton on behalf of the Council to the Minister of Education. The letter’s goal is “to express Council’s grave concerns with the findings in the investigator’s report,” and is going to be addressed to the Director of Education at the Peel District School Board, Peter Joshua, as well as the Board of Trustees. The resolution is also to be forwarded to the Region of Peel, City of Mississauga, and the Town of Caledon. “It is important for children to be in an atmosphere that promotes healthy and unbiased learning environments for all students, but unfortunately this is not the experience of some students in the Peel District School Board” said Councillor Williams when addressing Council on Wednesday’s meeting.

The motion was seconded by wards 9 and 10 Councillor Harkirat Singh, who served as a School Trustee at the Peel District School Board prior to his role as City Councillor. Councillor Singh expressed frustration with the lack of action by the school board, calling the report “infuriating.” He went on to discuss who is being hurt the most by the lack of action, saying “Our community members are suffering, but more importantly our black students are suffering… many of whom live in the city of Brampton.”

Mayor Patrick Brown further echoed Council’s sentiments by sharing in Councillor William’s and Councillor Singh’s frustrations, and calling out “a spectacle of inaction at the school board.”

Councillor Singh emphasized the importance of Council’s voice in standing up for students of colour, especially considering the impact of the report on Brampton. The report focused on anti-Black racism, but also made specific mentions to violence involving male youths of the north Brampton Punjabi community being ignored by teachers and administrators. Research shows that students, especially boys, benefit when teachers share their race. The original report highlighted a discrepancy in the racial makeup of staff and students, with 67% of staff members identifying as white but white students making up only 17% of the population. “If the PDSB is failing that doesn’t mean that we as a city can’t stand up, and I think we have a moral obligation to as well,” said Councillor Singh.

The Council reaffirmed its’ commitment to fighting anti-Black racism later on in the meeting as well, as they went on to pass another motion that also launched the City’s first-ever Black African and Caribbean Social, Cultural and Economic Empowerment and Anti-Black Racism Unit.

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