Toronto’s Indigenous consultant resigns, files human rights complaint

From a reasonable accommodation standpoint, her right to practice smudging would need to be weighed against the overall ban against smoking and the effects of second hand smoke.

Will be interesting to see how complaint will be resolved:

The woman hired to help city hall improve its relations with Indigenous communities has resigned and filed a human rights complaint against the city, Metro has learned.

Lindsay Kretschmer, a Mohawk Wolf Clan member, was hired last March as a full-time Indigenous Affairs consultant in the city’s Equity, Diversity and Human Rights division. Part of her job was to liaise with local Indigenous communities and provide the city with expert policy advice, in line with the city’s efforts to respond to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report.

But her stint was short-lived. In early July, Kretschmer tendered her resignation over what she calls “disrespectful” treatment of the Indigenous file. She has since filed a complaint at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, claiming the city violated her right to practise smudging, an Indigenous ceremony that involves burning sacred medicines.

“I waited for three months but I was never allowed to smudge in that building,” she said. She wanted Indigenous people to have a specific room at city hall where smudging can be performed, like the prayer/meditation room where members of any religion can pray.

City spokesperson Wynna Brown did not discuss specifics of the case with Metro but wrote in an email that the city has responded to Kretschmer’s application and “looks forward to the opportunity to present its case through the tribunal process.”

Kretschmer said she was later told she could smudge inside one of the managers’ offices — a response she regarded as “not dignified” because of the lack of privacy and personal space. One colleague even suggested she smudge outside.

“In 2017 you’re forbidding me from practising my culture. That’s essentially a repeat of colonization behaviour,” she said. “It’s just really bad to work there as an Indigenous person.”

Mayor John Tory has committed to increasing Indigenous presence at city hall, and the hiring of Kretchmer was seen as the first step. The city recently started acknowledging Toronto’s position on traditional Indigenous land at council and committee meetings. Indigenous flags fly on a permanent basis, and there’s a plan to give councillors and staff cultural competency training.

Tory’s spokesperson Don Peat referred Metro to strategic communications for answers on the case, adding the mayor “is committed to continuing to build positive relationships with Toronto’s Indigenous communities. He recognizes there is still much work to be done.”

At its meeting next Monday, the Aboriginal Affairs Committee will discuss the recruitment of a new consultant as they continue to work on the creation of an Aboriginal Office at city hall.

Kretschmer now believes that’s all “glamour” because there’s no concrete plan to promote Indigenous communities across the city. She says her hiring was just for show.

“It was a token position to make themselves look good, but they are doing nothing on the Indigenous file,” she said, adding there’s no Indigenous employment strategy and no budget to train staff.

“They are very far behind on that file. People are very upset with them. They’ve failed in so many ways it’s not even funny.”

Source: Toronto’s Indigenous consultant resigns, files human rights complaint | Toronto Star

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ICYMI: Critics say TDSB rushed vote to suspend program that puts police in high schools | Toronto Star

Getting the process right, including gathering evidence, is as important as the substance. The Board failed in this regard (see Christie Blatchford: School policing program latest casualty of the tyranny of a minority):

The Toronto District School Board’s decision to suspend a controversial program that places armed police officers in high schools has come under criticism from officials who say the move was made in haste. But advocacy group Black Lives Matter said the decision marked a step forward.

TDSB trustees voted Wednesday night to discontinue the Student Resource Officer initiative, pending a review of the practice, due in November.

“It was felt that the presence of (officers) during the review when we were asking people to talk about them might be intimidating and create a potential bias,” TDSB Chair Robin Pilkey told the Star.

About 16 votes were cast in favour of suspension and six votes were cast against, said Pilkey, who voted to suspend.

The Student Resource Officer program, in place since 2008, has garnered a mix of praise and criticism since its inception. Some students, parents and school staff have said the presence of armed, uniformed police improves safety, and gives teens a chance to get to know local officers.

Others have expressed concern that the program leads to criminalization of relatively minor schoolyard problems and alienates marginalized students who may not feel comfortable around police.

In June, the TDSB ordered a review of the program to take place this fall.

A report on the planning for the TDSB review of the program was scheduled for Wednesday night’s board meeting, prompting Trustee Marit Stiles to draft a motion for the program suspension.

“Earlier in the day, I circulated to all trustees a motion I intended to introduce related to the report (on the review),” Stiles told the Star. “It was introduced during the meeting as business arising from the (review) report.”

The trustees debated the suspension issue for at least an hour, Stiles added.

The decision to suspend the program was “unfortunate,” Mayor John Tory told reporters on Thursday.

The Toronto Police Services Board, of which Tory is a member, has commissioned its own review of the SRO program, to be completed in Spring 2018.

“The school board decided they would take a different approach, and, before that review is done, cancel the program,” Tory said.

“I wasn’t prepared to rush to judgment to say the program was perfect or imperfect,” he added.

At least one trustee has said board officials should have been given time to consult their communities before the vote.

Trustees would normally have a week or two to discuss a motion like this, “but we had no chance to do any of that,” Trustee Pamela Gough, who voted against the suspension, said.

“My decision last night not to support it was basically a status quo until we hear the evidence and we hear the voices of the people actually in the schools,” she added.

“Evidence-based decision making is better than taking a stab in the dark on a topic, especially when the motion, came with such short notice.”

Stiles acknowledged that not all the trustees were comfortable with suspending the SRO program, but added that officials have had ample time to consider the public’s feelings about the practice.

“We’ve been talking about the future of the SRO program for quite some time,” Stiles said.

“I think if enough trustees were concerned about that we would have seen a vote against the motion,” Stiles added.

The controversy over the Student Resource Officer program erupted in May after a review of the nearly decade-old program was one of the items on the agenda of the Toronto police board meeting. A group of teachers and school workers presented a detailed report about the negative impact the program in schools. A motion to suspend the program was deferred to June.

Things became more heated at the June board meeting, where 74 people spoke against uniformed police officers in school. Protestors from Black Lives Matter and other groups filled the auditorium at police headquarters. The meeting was disrupted a couple of times as tensions rose and board members were heckled. At the end of a long night, the board decided to postpone the decision over the motion until the end of the year.

It was no different during the board’s August meeting where Toronto police chief Mark Saunders presented a plan to have Ryerson University perform a review of the contested program. Activists attended the meeting calling for board members to resign. They also carried signs saying “We’re here for Dafonte,” in reference to Black teen Dafonte Miller who was allegedly beaten by an off-duty Toronto police officer and his brother.

Responding to the decision of the TDSB to suspend the program, Black Lives Matter put out a statement: “Last night, Toronto District School Board Trustees voted to temporarily suspend the School Resource Officer (SRO) program for the start of the school year. The program will be suspended to allow for the TDSB to conduct a review of the program, its effectiveness, and hear from students from marginalized communities about their experiences with cops in schools.

“While this is not a full victory, this is an important step forward. After years of activism from groups like Education Not Incarceration (ENI), and the Latinx, Afro-Latin-America, Abya Yala Education Network (LAEN), the TDSB has undertaken a thorough review of the program to happen throughout the fall.

“Toronto Police Services Board are also conducting their own (questionable) review of the program. This review will be overseen by a committee comprised of TPS board chair, the Chief of Police, amongst others. We remain skeptical of any instance in which cops are reviewing other cops.

“It’s time to hear from students themselves about their experiences with police surveillance, criminalization, profiling, and their experiences with armed police officers in their classrooms. The work has only begun.”

Forty-six of the TDSB’s 113 high schools had student resources officers in 2016-2017, though one has since closed and three others suspended the program due to “schedule issues.”

Five schools have an officer assigned solely to them last year. The rest shared one or two officers with other TDSB and Toronto Catholic District School board institutions.

The SRO program has been in place since 2008, instituted in large part as a response to the murder of 15-year-old Jordan Manners, in the halls of C.W. Jefferys Collegiate Institute in North York.

As part of the TDSB’s review of the SRO program, the board’s research department will conduct a written survey of staff and students at participating schools.

Source: Critics say TDSB rushed vote to suspend program that puts police in high schools | Toronto Star

Arts boards still don’t represent Toronto’s diversity: Bob Ramsay

Good comparative analysis:

Four years ago, I wrote a Star column on the shocking white maleness of the boards of Toronto’s “Big 6” arts groups. Back then, all 25 board members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra were white.

Two years ago, I wrote an update. Surely, in the most diverse city in the world, the Big 6 would diversify their boards to better reflect their donors and audiences. Many big arts groups appoint board members precisely because they have the means to help raise serious money from their communities.

Unfortunately, it seems Not in Our Back Yard. In fact, in 2015 things got worse for the Canadian Opera Company (COC), where all 36 of their board members were white. In Toronto, the visible minority had just become the majority, yet the COC couldn’t find a single person from this new majority to help guide and secure their future.

So how is the state of diversity now? Well, I described the pace of diversifying big arts boards between 2013 and 2015 as “glacial.” But glaciers are receding faster than some big arts boards are advancing on this issue. So let’s call the progress between 2015 and now “snail-like.”

First, it’s important to note that not all the big arts boards are lagging in diversity. Some are leading in it and always have. For example, TIFF’s board of directors is made up of seven white men, six men of colour, five white women and two women of colour.

The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) are doing pretty well too: The ROM’s board has six white men, three men of colour, six white women and four women of colour. The AGO’s board has 21 white men, four men of colour, 15 white women and two women of colour.

Meanwhile, the National Ballet of Canada board may have more women members than men, but of the 20 women, not a single one is a woman of colour. Not one. And of the 15 men, just one is a man of colour.

The Toronto Symphony board (reduced from 27 to 13) has seven men and six women on it board. All but one is white.

Once again, the Canadian Opera Company board lags behind. In 2015, 30 of its 42 board members were men and 12 were women. All were white. Today, with a board of 35, the number of women has fallen to 11, with not one being a woman of colour. Today, just two of its 22 male board members are men of colour.

Some people will argue that the arts aren’t obliged to have their leadership reflect the makeup of the general population. I buy that argument too. But all the organizations mentioned here are in the excellence business. This means they’re also in the engaging-new-communities business.

This is why I don’t buy the argument that people from non-European cultures just aren’t interested in opera, especially since the “from” can now be several generations past.

Worse still, why could the COC not even recruit a single member to its board from a ‘white’ culture that’s bathed in opera for centuries? Not one Russian-sounding name appears on the COC board. What’s more, this year, the COC hosted the two most famous opera singers in the world for a sold-out “night to remember” concert: baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky and soprano Anna Netrebko. Guess where they’re from?

In my previous informal reviews of arts board composition, I’ve argued that more diverse boards will help the Big 6 expand its pool of ticket-buyers and financial supporters. Given that the arts are more challenged than ever on these two fronts, I thought that just made sense.

Source: Arts boards still don’t represent Toronto’s diversity | Toronto Star

History’s lessons on dealing with Canada’s neo-Nazi groups

Interesting bit of history regarding a number of anti-Nazi events: the 1965 Allen Gardens riot and the 1933 Christie Pitts clash, and less violent protests during Quebec neo-Nazi Adrien Arcand’s Toronto visit in 1938.

The recommendation not to give neo-Nazis publicity (oxygen), while sound, is unrealistic given competing passions, mainstream and social media coverage:

Beattie [leader of Allen Gardens neo-Nazis] didn’t turn out to be that person, however. Even though he continued to hold rallies in the park, his movement fizzled out, partially because he wasn’t actually all that dynamic or novel, and was—as historian Frank Bialystok points out—a terrible orator. The numbers he led were small, and the best publicity he got was the media coverage and public dismay that such horrific events could be happening in Toronto the Good. Judge Sydney Harris, notes Bialystok, said that if the Jewish community had ignored the neo-Nazis from the outset, the movement would have died.

There was some upside to the Allan Gardens riot; Bialystok argues that, even though the incident is rarely remembered as any kind of turning point, it actually marked the birth of a new collaboration between Jewish communities that were previously divided, roughly according to when they had immigrated—prior to, or after the war. But, today, whether we’re dealing with actual neo-Nazis or merely street-fighting western chauvinists, there are perhaps wiser lessons to be drawn from 100 years of dealing with extremist groups in Toronto. Four thousand people turning up at Allan Gardens in 1965 only amplified the neo-Nazis’ message; 12,000 people showing up at Maple Leaf Gardens in 1938 helped to drown out the hate being spewed at Massey Hall.

It’s not wrong to be concerned about the extremist movements cropping up. But we have to be careful not to give these attention-seekers the megaphone: they’ll only use conflict to amplify their message. The answer, instead, is to drown them out by making broad coalitions and working together towards education, truth and reconciliation, social equality and representative democracy. It worked in 1938—and it can work again.

Toronto Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam withdrawing ‘intersectional’ motion that clashed with Black activists: Paradkar

Eating their own rather than moving forward – action starts with awareness:

Toronto councillor is withdrawing a motion asking the council to establish an “Intersectional Awareness Week” after it ran afoul of detractors from unexpected quarters.

“I will be withdrawing the motion,” said Kristyn Wong-Tam, who also released a statement Wednesday morning, barely five days after the motion was launched. “I was hoping . . . that it was the beginning of a powerful movement to raise awareness that we are not single-issue people.”

The city council had directed Toronto’s city manager to create an “Intersectional Gender-Based Framework to Assess Budgetary Impacts” in next year’s budget, her statement said.

“A dynamic young, LGBTQ2S+ racialized woman working with my office proposed the creation of an Intersectionality Awareness Week. She diligently did her research and with the input of my office staff, drafted a motion which was wholeheartedly endorsed.”

The opposition to her proposal came not from the usual suspects such as Councillors Giorgio Mammoliti or Jim Karygiannis, who tabled an openly hostile motion against Black Lives Matter couched as support for Toronto police, but from several high-profile Black scholars, activists and community workers.

Intersectionality is the term coined by the American scholar and civil rights advocate Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw to describe the invisible overlapping or intersection of issues of class, race, gender, ethnicity and sexuality when it comes to discrimination. She first applied it in the context of Black feminism.

While she used the term in 1980s, it has entered the mainstream only in recent years, and though I have a distaste for what I call “academese” — jargon that serves to obfuscate rather than clarify — the word “intersectionality” has expanded into an exceptionally effective descriptor of marginalized people at the crossroads of multiple identities.

Wong-Tam’s proposal aiming to commence an educational campaign fell apart after her critics released an open letter asking for the motion to be withdrawn.

At issue were the following points:

  1. The timing. The proposal came on the heels of the inquest that ruled the death of Andrew Loku — a mentally ill Black man killed by police — a homicide, a verdict with no criminal liability. The timing suggested it was, yet again, a token gesture of mollification by the city, a symbolism without substance.
  2. The motion did not take into account the contribution of Crenshaw (an omission that was later amended) for the term intersectionality, and the work of other Black feminists, and it did not reference Blackness, suggesting it ignored Black struggles.
  3. The exclusion of Black activists from the planning of the proposal that suggested a disregard for their experiences.

“I was prepared to amend it after some of the comments I heard. I recognize there are individuals deeply attached to the discussion,” Wong-Tam told me. She says Crenshaw, whom she reached out to after the initial motion, was supportive of her proposal and described it as incredibly exciting news. The hope was that city council could partner with local universities to bring Crenshaw to Toronto to launch the initiative, she said.

The proposal also had the support of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations.

“Now that there’s this open letter,” Wong-Tam said. “I also want to be respectful of what they say. I understand their skepticism especially in light of police shootings.

“There was nothing behind the motion that was meant to harm anybody. It would allow us to create a forum to better understand the concept of intersectionality.”

Her critics didn’t see it that way. They saw the proposal as celebratory.

“What exactly has the city done in order to warrant the celebration of Intersectionality Awareness Week? What awareness does the city have that it feels that it can lead such an initiative?” asked OmiSoore Dryden, chair, department of women’s, gender and sexuality studies at Thorneloe University (at Laurentian). “I would really like councillors to focus on this job, instead of the time and energy they have put into the pretence of this ‘awareness week.’ ”

There are no bad people in this conflict — a rarity these days — only people on the same side disagreeing on the way forward.

As a racialized immigrant woman of colour in the LGBTQ community, Wong-Tam gets intersectionality.

As people experiencing daily oppression, Black people are opposed to yet another government awareness program with brochures and seminars.

There’s also a chicken-and-egg tension; Black activists want Wong-Tam to establish credibility and see action before words. “We want a commitment from the City of Toronto to actually do some substantive work in helping Black people live our lives fully,” the activists’ open letter says.

For Wong-Tam, spreading awareness would lead to action. “I don’t believe we can get to a place of full equity by not having these dialogues. This is how we build allyship.”

There is a gap in the understanding of the term “intersectionality” in the broader population, and Wong-Tam has identified it as one that needs to be addressed.

It does.

With the shock waves of the Loku verdict still reverberating, the time to address that gap may not be right now. But in time I hope these two sides get together to hammer out concrete steps to make it happen.

Source: Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam withdrawing ‘intersectional’ motion that clashed with Black activists: Paradkar | Toronto Star

How police became the enemy in Toronto schools: Cohn

Good insightful column by Regg Cohn. Activists have the right to opinions and protests but ultimately the democratic process and accountability must decide:

Uniformed police have now been banned from participating in Toronto’s Pride parade.

Will they next be barred from fraternizing with students in our schools?

Anti-police protests have become a recurring theme in Toronto. Black Lives Matter led the charge at last year’s Pride, blocking the parade and out-organizing the organizers until they won the day.

Now, however, the protesters may have met their match in parents and principals who don’t view all police as perennial enemies in all places.

At a raucous meeting of Toronto’s Police Services Board this month, BLM protesters found themselves being challenged by people of colour who are taking a more colour-blind view of security, safety and pedagogy.

Critics describe the School Resource Officer (SRO) program as a “school to prison pipeline,” arguing that police pick on marginalized — read, racialized — students. But when police board member Ken Jeffers suggested last week that it be suspended or terminated like a truant student, the reaction may have surprised him.

One woman in the audience shouted back that he should ponder the blood shed by Blacks because of violence in our schools. As my colleague Andrea Gordon reported, a procession of principals, teachers and students from diverse racial backgrounds expressed strong support for the police presence — though it didn’t seem to influence BLM’s view.

The SRO program is not unique to Toronto but it is uniquely controversial here. Vancouver, Ottawa, Mississauga and other big cities have embraced the idea of placing police in schools, where it remains popular.

That’s not to say the program is perfect. But we should remember that the perfect is the enemy of the good — even if the police are sometimes seen by many as the enemy.

Whatever its flaws, the program has indisputably benefited many students and teachers in the trenches. An independent study of a similar SRO program in Peel suggests the presence of cops is an “overwhelmingly positive” confidence-building and relationship-building measure.

Measuring its impact is undoubtedly difficult. To its credit, the police board ultimately decided to defer any suspension until the Toronto program is properly evaluated. That didn’t stop Black Lives Matter from dismissing any review as a “dangerous side tactic.”

BLM is entitled to its protests, which had a cascading effect on the Pride parade — a private (albeit publicly subsidized) group that can make its own decisions in its own ways. Unlike Pride, the police services board — like our Toronto-area school boards — is a democratically constituted entity answerable to our elected councillors, who are accountable to the broad public and especially parents. Pressure tactics are part of our civil discourse, but representative democracy ought not to be held hostage to protests weighed down by historical grievances about police raids on gay bathhouses three decades ago.

It’s easy to forget the impetus for police in our schools. A decade ago, Grade 9 student Jordan Manners, 15, was fatally shot in the hallway of C.W. Jefferys Collegiate. In the aftermath, Toronto’s two publicly funded school boards teamed up with the police to introduce the SRO program.

The C.W. Jefferys school initially resisted the idea, but later embraced it after another teen was stabbed and yet another caught with a loaded handgun. Its current principal, Monday Gala, is a strong supporter:

“If you come into Jefferys today and see the positivity that is going on organized by this partnership with the police, you can’t deny the fact that there is a place for the police in the school,” he told the Star.

Some feel frustrated that the SRO program isn’t comprehensive but perhaps unfairly selective, rotating 36 uniformed cops through 75 schools across the city. Other SRO programs, such as in Peel and Ottawa, cover all schools.

That has led to the perception that only at-risk Black kids are targeted at schools like C.W. Jefferys. But at-risk — and rich — kids of all colours are just as likely to be watched over by cops at the posh Etobicoke School of the Arts, Riverdale Collegiate or Northern Secondary School.

Would an even larger program that puts cops in every single school appease everyone? It hardly seems like the solution sought by protesters, who sometimes sound as if they don’t want to see any cops anywhere at any time — whether on a Pride parade ground or a Toronto school ground.

Protesters have every right to their anti-police perspective. Especially in the wake of a long battle against carding that disproportionately affected people of colour.

Minority voices, whether held by minority groups or believed by bastions of white privilege, are part of our democratic discourse. But they cannot be the last word in a democratic process.

Source: How police became the enemy in Toronto schools: Cohn | Toronto Star

Toronto: Gender, racial diversity part of city’s tech push

Interesting approach that sends a message:

Mayor John Tory says he and other Toronto city officials are less likely to attend tech and innovation events if they feature all-man panels and programming with little ethnic diversity.

Tory made the pledge Thursday at the “Women founders and leaders in technology” event, part of the #MoveTheDial initiative aimed at increasing female participation and leadership in Canadian tech.

“Our city is home to a diverse array of talent that must be represented in the events and programming we put on for each other and for the world. . . ,” Tory said. “Diversity and inclusion are a huge part of our value proposition and I will be supporting and championing those events that help build that reputation at home and globally.”

In written responses to the Star after the event, Tory said he, his “advocate for the innovation economy” Councillor Michelle Holland, economic development chair Councillor Michael Thompson and others at the city will “prioritize” the many events they attend based on the gender and ethnic balance of people being presented.

He said he came up with the idea himself after observing many such events and speaking with people including Jodi Kovitz, founder of #MoveTheDial who was part of his trade delegation last fall to Israel.

“Many rooms contain almost all men in large crowds,” Tory said. “We will try to look at diversity overall in our selection of events with an emphasis on gender since that seems to be the bigger challenge.

“By doing this we are asking everyone to be intentional about the public face we put on our events and our conversations about tech. Our city is diverse and that should be reflected.”

California’s Silicon Valley in particular has been criticized for a “tech bro” culture populated by male, mostly white coders who, when they strike it rich, invest in other startups run by people who look mostly like them.

Source: Gender, racial diversity part of city’s tech push | Toronto Star

Black students hindered by academic streaming, suspensions: Report

The data is convincing. But the interpretation may miss broader socio-economic factors that also contribute to the gap:

Black children in the GTA may start kindergarten feeling confident and excited to learn, but too many are “gradually worn down” by schools that stream them into applied courses and suspend them at much higher rates than other students, says a new report from York University.

The report found that while academic streaming was supposed to have ended in 1999, black students are twice as likely to be enrolled in applied instead of academic courses compared to their counterparts from other racial backgrounds. And they are more than twice as likely to have been suspended from school at least once during high school.

“Black students face an achievement and opportunity gap in GTA schools,” says the study led by York University professor Carl James.

“All evidence point(s) to the need for action if the decades-old problem is to be addressed.”

The findings were based on data from the Toronto District School Board — the only board to regularly collect race-based statistics, though a similar move is underway at the Peel District School Board. Consultations with 324 black parents, community members, educators, school trustees and students indicated “the same patterns exist in other GTA school boards,” said James.

Because much of the information in the 80-page report was produced by the TDSB’s research department, it comes as no surprise to director of education John Malloy.

“We aren’t running away from what the data is telling us, we’re willing to face it,” he said in an interview.

He said the board’s new equity framework plan launched last fall involves a sweeping review of everything from board policies to personal attitudes among staff and the barriers students of different backgrounds face when it comes to accessing programs and courses.

Streaming, which places students in academic or university-bound courses instead of the more hands-on applied courses based on perceived ability, is a key piece, he said.

The practice has been found to hit low-income kids and certain racial groups such as black students hardest.

Several high schools in Toronto have already launched pilot projects to end streaming in some Grade 9 and 10 courses, so that students aren’t making decisions so early that will affect their futures. And two years ago, a TDSB report called for streaming to be phased out and undertook to expand the pilots. But there are currently only about five in place.

“I think we are beginning to get a groundswell of support,” says Monday Gala, principal of C.W. Jefferys Collegiate, which was the first to begin a destreaming initiative and no longer offers applied options in Grade 9 geography, English, science or French or Grade 10 history, English and science.

But across the system, it’s one change “I wish would move faster,” added Gala. The school provides extra tutoring and lunchtime and after-school support and has seen pass rates increase across the board.

A similar result took place at Runnymede Collegiate, which this year offered only academic English to Grade 9 students and is hoping to add geography next year, said principal Paul Edwards.

Eliminating streaming is one of the many recommendations in the new York University report, which also calls for mandatory collection of race-based data by all school boards to illuminate barriers; use of alternative discipline measures, steps to diversify the teaching workforce, and ministry and board policies to address anti-black racism.

Among its other findings:

  • Between 2006 and 2011 — the latest period for which TDSB data is available — only 53 per cent of black students were in an academic stream program versus 81 per cent of white students and 80 per cent of other racial groups.
  • Forty-two per cent of black students had been suspended at least once during high school compared with 18 per cent of white students and 15 per cent of other racial groups. It also cited more recent stats showing almost half the 213 students expelled in the five-year period ending in 2015-16 were black.
  • Sixty-nine per cent of black students graduated between 2006 and 2011 versus 87 per cent of other non-white students and 84 per cent of white students. Twenty per cent — twice as many as the other groups — dropped out.
  • Fifty-eight per cent of black kids did not apply to post-secondary school versus 41 per cent in the other two groups.

Source: Black students hindered by academic streaming, suspensions: Report | Toronto Star

Our Trump moment might not be so white: Saunders

Doug Saunders reminds us of Rob Ford, that his base was largely the non-white suburban poor and the importance of addressing barriers that produce marginalization:

Canada’s most dramatic recent triumph of Trump-style politics occurred in Toronto, where nearly half the city’s voters (and Toronto has more voters than most provinces do) cast a ballot for a wealthy, unpredictable, populist, anti-immigration, anti-elite, racist-mouthed guy named Rob Ford in 2010, and a third voted for his movement in 2014. Many note the similarities between the late mayor and the current President. Others point out the big difference: Ford voters weren’t generally, or even mainly, white.

An analysis by University of Toronto geographer Zach Taylor found that the Torontonians who voted for Mr. Ford overwhelmingly lived in inner-suburban wards whose populations were mainly racial and ethnic minorities, mainly lacking university education and mainly getting by on family incomes of less than $100,000 a year. Those voters are what the journalist Naheed Mustafa, in an analysis of their backgrounds, called “the non-white suburban poor,” whom Mr. Ford pitted against an unseen, well-paid downtown elite (and sometimes against newer immigrants) – “Despite his personal wealth, he gave the impression that he spoke the language of the marginalized.” Sound familiar?

Since the eighties, new Canadians and their families have tended to live in the low-cost, poorly transit-connected high-rise suburbs; they are more likely to be excluded from the housing boom and the secure new-economy jobs that have buoyed Canada; they are generally not white. Mr. Ford spoke their specific language of outsider resentment; he stoked the anger felt by many marginal Caribbean, African, South Asian and East Asian Canadians, and worked their Evangelical and Pentecostal churches. He knew their sense of exclusion could be turned into angry intolerance and he gave his voters a mythic “them” to be angry about. And it worked.

Likewise, the 2011 federal election was the first in which most ethnic and religious minorities voted Conservative. The Harper Tories certainly weren’t a populist far-right party, but they didn’t attract these new voters by moving leftward.

This doesn’t mean minorities in Canada have turned to the far right – they haven’t, any more than anyone else has. It does mean that anger and exclusion and paranoia in Canada, and even racial intolerance and xenophobia in Canada, are just as likely to entrap minority Canadians. The places where I most often hear overtly pro-Trump opinions are on Toronto’s black-music radio station or in the suburban flea markets: His outsider message works there.

Canada has traditionally avoided extremism by offering hope: If you start on the bottom rung, you can make it higher. But the second and third rungs are no longer so secure. If they fail, we could wind up electing the world’s most diverse form of self-destructive intolerance.

Source: Our Trump moment might not be so white – The Globe and Mail

First Nations School of Toronto ready for brighter future

While I always have mixed thoughts about ethnically (or religiously) based schooling given that it can hamper integration, understand the pressures particularly with First Nations.

It will be important to have some long-term evaluations of this school’s effectiveness, not just in terms of graduation rates (important, where I expect improvement) but 10 years post-graduation in terms of employment and income:

Twenty-five years ago, Shannon Judge was an indigenous student in a Barrie high school where sports teams were named the “Redskins.”

A generation earlier her mother, from Wasauksing First Nation near Parry Sound, wasn’t allowed to speak her first language of Ojibwe at the elementary school she attended on her reserve.

Today, Judge’s two children are finally breaking the cycle at First Nations School of Toronto. Raven, 9, and Rayne, 8, are part of a new era of indigenous education that teaches them through the lens of aboriginal experience and history.

Thanks to their school, both children now speak Ojibwe with their grandmother, which has inspired Judge to take lessons too, provided by volunteers through the school. Morning smudging ceremonies and daily 40-minute language and culture classes with an elder are part of their routine.

“I feel like my kids are getting something from school that’s not only education, but a connection to their history and identity that empowers them and gives them a sense of worthiness,” says Judge.

As of this month, students will have the option of keeping that connection until they graduate from Grade 12, following the school’s long-awaited move from its cramped quarters at Dundas Street Public School.

The Judge family - Shannon and Neal with Raven, 9 and Rayne, 8, - are shown outside the First Nations School of Toronto, which opened in its new location this month.

The move to the spacious building — site of the former Eastern Commerce Collegiate, which closed in 2015 due to falling enrolment — means that beginning in September, First Nations School will introduce a new high school grade each fall. The new Grade 9 class next September will become the first graduates in 2021.

That will make it Ontario’s first publicly-funded school to offer aboriginal education from kindergarten through Grade 12.

“The dynamics have changed,” principal Jonathan Kakegamic said following the Jan. 10 opening on the six-acre property, also home to the Aboriginal Education Centre run by the Toronto District School Board.

The kids, currently in kindergarten through Grade 8 and from all over the city, were beside themselves to see all the space, inside and out. Instead of eating breakfast and lunch in a crowded classroom, they now have a cafeteria, along with their own gym and an auditorium.

“I’m just excited to be here,” says Kakegamic, who moved from Thunder Bay last August to become principal. “It’s an honour to be part of this new era.”

Attendance has already risen to 131 students from 96 in September and the new site will accommodate 600.

Teacher Maliha Mitha reads to her Grade 1 and 2 class at First Nations School of Toronto during the children's first week at the new site.

Kakegamic and others in the community stress that expanding to secondary school is critical to reducing high dropout rates among indigenous students, who often feel lost in a larger system that doesn’t teach their perspective and history.

Source: First Nations School of Toronto ready for brighter future | Toronto Star