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Action on Racism: Burnaby Board of Education

Courageous conversations about racism have presented an opportunity to all of us everywhere to do better. The Burnaby Board of Education has unanimously passed a motion designed to engage with, listen to, and learn from the community the Burnaby School District serves – and particularly Indigenous people, Black people and people of colour – and after consultation, develop a district anti-racism plan, update anti-racism policies, and create a better path forward together.

Board Chair Gary Wong:

We must learn from the lived experiences of those in our school community who have been affected by racism, discrimination or bias right here in Burnaby. This will help inform where we want to get to: a system action plan. If we are to impact systemic racism, we must not only honour their stories and address concerns, but we must also have an actionable strategy and be accountable for results. But first we must listen.”

The following motion was passed by all trustees at the public Board Meeting on June 23:

That the Burnaby School District use a consultative process to develop a district anti-racism action plan that respects and honours the voices and lived experiences of those affected by systemic racism, implicit bias and/or discrimination.

Further, that the District:

  • Include broader conversation with Black, Indigenous and racialized communities to inform the district anti-racism action plan and update anti-racism policies;
  • Establish an ad-hoc working group to support the development of an engagement process that provides meaningful, safe and culturally sensitive opportunities for students, staff and families to engage in consultation and dialogue;
  • Include representation on the ad-hoc working group from the district’s partner groups as well as Black, Indigenous and racialized communities;
  • And report to the board on progress and timelines by October 30.

Vice-Chair Jen Mezei brought forward the motion, saying that the District must have in-depth community consultation that values the stories and lived experiences of our students, staff and families.

We need to ask: ‘What do you need to feel safe at school? What do you need to feel safe at work?’ We don’t have the answers, but to effect real change we must start the dialogue, knowing there will be uncomfortable truths that must be acknowledged and cause us as a district to reflect on our policies and practices. But most importantly, we must act on what we learn if we are truly committed to anti-racism and addressing systemic racism.”

Chair Wong said that the Board is grateful to Burnaby North Secondary student Haleluya Hailu and others who have shared their views, including their thoughts on the RCMP School Liaison Program.

“These are exactly the kinds of uncomfortable and courageous conversations that need to happen. We are committed to hearing feedback and addressing concerns on the program and its effectiveness in our district, including from those who have engaged with police in our schools and participated in programs.”

Chair Wong also reiterated that, as a district, we must always strive to be part of meaningful systemic change.

“The work of reaching out about racism to engage and listen to the community we serve is just the beginning and long overdue. An opportunity to do better has been presented to all of us everywhere, and the Burnaby School District intends to take it.”


Posted June 2020