Today as part of the Alberta Government's initiative to promote diversity and inclusion in Alberta we had the pleasure to sit down with representatives from Minister Eggen's office and discuss the role public education can play in building community and addressing racism within Alberta. One of the most important things we were able to do at this meeting was to both share our experiences and the experiences sent to us by Albertans directly with government decision makers. We think this is the most important thing we can do as an advocacy organization, to share the voices of citizens. If you have an experience you would like to share we want to hear from you and we will pass on your comments to Minister Eggen's office and the Office of the Premier.
Agenda July 10, 2017 Anti-Racism Meeting Ministry of Education McDougall Centre, Calgary Alberta
Support Our Students is a public education advocacy organization, and as such our concerns with racism and intolerance will have a focus specific to public education.
Racism and Intolerance As Experienced by Children in the Present Day:
Racism and intolerance are very real experiences for children across all Alberta schools. We have heard from several SOS AB supporters about their experiences, and these are some of the stories they have shared with us:
*Please note these individuals wish to remain private, we've edited their letters to protect their privacy
**Warning there is some racist language and racist situations described in the following letters which we have chosen to include
Letters received by SOS Alberta from Albertans, July , 2017:
I want to share my story so that this doesn't happen to another child again. I know that one of my close friends was able to address this issue at their child's school by asking that more books be added that address diversity and more cultures to increase awareness/sensitivity for how people that look different can be made to feel accepted at any school they attend. That principal did bring more cultural books on staff after the request was made. I'm an elementary teacher at a large public school. I know that there are very few books like this at our school. I wonder how the minister might feel about increasing money for books in libraries to address this issue and start teaching communities as little as elementary students to help fix this issue one step at a time.
Please share this story with the minister of education.
My children were bullied for being atheists at the Palliser school [we attended] to the point they were told they were going to hell.
When my eldest child was 6 (now 12) was on a soccer team, and a kid started making fun of their gorgeous ringlet hair and called out " curly fries! Curly fries! curly fries!"
There are many cases of Racism in [our town] that we have personally heard from our other ethnic friends. It is quite common.
I'd love to see it mandated that teachers and staff privately take the Harvard Racial Bias Test online so they're aware of the biases and can work on improving them (we all have them. So much better to acknowledge!)
A dear friend of mine fostered a number of FN kids, two of them were siblings that they got as newborns. Those kids were Blessed to grow up in a beautiful loving home. They were treated exactly the same as the natural born children in every respect. The younger of the two had some issues and dropped out of high school. The older child is now studying to be a Social Worker. In any event the oldest child and their Mom (which is what they called her) were chatting one day a few months after graduation and then it all came out. both the siblings were harassed and bullied non stop because they were FN. That was when Mom found out why the youngest quit school. This went on for the entire time they were in high school. Mom was devastated. She asked why they hadn't told her and said she would have gone right to the school to get things sorted. The response: "Exactly Mom and that would have just made things worse for us". Two days later mom burst into tears while talking to myself and another friend after church. She was heart broken and the sobs kept coming. The thought that those children endured so much for so long was tearing her apart. Our hearts broke for that family. How is it even possible no staff saw this? Those kids should have been safe in their small town rural high school but they weren't. Nowhere close. I am just grateful that they have survived and maybe one day there will be healing for them.
The place where children from all walks of life should have opportunities to learn across faith, culture, ability and race. The benefits to this kind of learning and environment have been shown to be beneficial to learning and skills for later in life. This is happening less and less:
Of note, the CBE no longer even includes the term PUBLIC in its title. We must recommit & redefine what a public system truly is; accessible to ALL children.
Presence of Christian schools, Jewish Schools, Quranic worldview schools, Muslim Academies, Traditional learning Centres (know to appeal to certain cultures), Sports Academies, Music Programs, Language programs, all segregate children under the public umbrella. This current system will only encourage, not discourage intolerance and racism
Specialized programming, and their associated barriers (fees, application procedures) not only segregate, but disproportionately affect the most disadvantaged population who are over represented by FNMI, people of colour and other minorities.
Effects of these barriers and systemic inequities result in poor completion rates and disengaged students.
Talking about diversity and tolerance is important, but means nothing unless children have the opportunity to experience diversity and exercise acceptance. Anti-racism-education cannot be theoretical, it must be practical. For this to occur children from all walks, of all faiths, cultures, and ability must build community through public education together. They need us to create those opportunities. It is important to fight racism, it is equally important to prevent it.