The Henry Grube Education Centre in Kamloops was the backdrop as Minister of Education and Child Care Rachna Singh announced a new K-12 Anti-Racism Action Plan for B.C. schools.
“I really want to applaud the Kamloops-Thompson school district staff, board and their education partners for their commitment to dismantling racism in their schools,” Singh said as she commended the district for its anti-racism plan, which was implemented in 2021.
She said that while the province is launching its K-12 action plan today, it’s a living document.
“I hear time and again that it is important that the burden of addressing racism and discrimination is shared collectively, and not just by racialized students, staff and their families," Singh said.
“In order to truly create change in our schools we all need to commit to allyship and to better understand the roles each of us plays in recognizing and preventing racism for schools and in our larger community."
Under the action plan, the Ministry of Education and Child Care will provide new training opportunities for all school staff to help them better understand their role in fostering anti-racist school environments. It will also empower students and staff to identify biases and address acts of racism or discrimination with new incident-response guidelines.
"As a board of education, we are immensely honoured and grateful to learn from the lived perspectives of students who experience racism," said Heather Grieve, board chair of the Kamloops-Thompson school district.
"It is only through their words that we can develop truly authentic action plans for inclusive, safe communities in our district."
South Kamloops Secondary School Grade 12 student Annecia Thomas spoke to the gathering, saying that as a young black woman she faces a lot of discrimination.
She decided to take a stand as a member of Motion of Colour, a local student-led organization focused on racial justice through youth-facilitated discussions and an education-based approach to anti-racism.
“I believed that my voice is my most powerful tool in this lifetime. It took great strength and courage for the ability to use it, but now I am capable of doing just that. I know that it will never leave me,” said Annecia.
The action plan requires all districts and independent schools to have codes of conduct and policies to address racism and discrimination.
Future anti-racism work by the ministry will continue to incorporate feedback from the education sector and those with lived experiences of racism.
According to government statistics, 58 per cent of students in B.C. say they have seen other students insulted, bullied or excluded based on their race or ethnicity.