Secondary teachers union aims to dismantle racism in schools

By Josie Fiegehen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF) have announced today that they will be adding programs and initiatives to combat racism and oppression within the Ontario school boards.

“OSSTF/FEESO recognizes that structural and systemic discrimination within society and our organization provide us with both the opportunity and the responsibility to make foundational changes locally and provincially.”

Their action plan to support equity and anti-oppression is a living document that creates a path to identify and eliminate discriminatory organizational practices, systematic barriers, and biases within OSSTF/FEESO.  This initiative was approved at the Annual Meeting of the Provincial Assembly 2021.

Several programs will be put into place such as Provincial advisory work groups including First Nations, Metis and Inuit Advisory Work Group, Equity Advisory Work Group, and the Black Persons and Persons of Colour Advisory work group.  These groups will work with and advise the Provincial Executive in future decisions. .

Equity caucuses will have time allocated for each caucus to have input at every Provincial meeting, deciding the agenda and topics of conversation.  The equity caucuses are open to members who self identify as First Nations, Metis and Inuit, Black, Racialized, Women, Francophone, Members with Disability(ies) and LGBTQ2SI+ people.

Professional Development and Training workshops and resources will include Truth and Reconciliation, Combating anti-Black racism, Allyship, History of Canadian Black Lives, Canadian’s Women History, Racial Justice, Challenging Misogyny, and Addressing Homophobia and Transphobia.

Advocacy, outreach and support will be a priority for OSSTF, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, Anishnawbe Health Network, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, and the Black Youth Helpline.

OSSTF/FEESO is in the final stages of hiring an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) Coordinator.  This person will advise the provincial organization on improving policy and practice to support EDI.

They are also updating the tool used for voluntary self-identification, and the information will be used to monitor the equity performance of initiatives and design new measures that achieve greater EDI.

This is building off of existing initiatives within the OSSTF, but they ”acknowledge and embrace the fact that there is much more to do.”

The OSSTF close their article with the statement below:

“The Provincial Executive will continue to look inward to address systemic racism while challenging discrimination in all of its forms. Collectively, OSSTF/FEESO has an opportunity and responsibility to move this organization forward employing anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices. The first step in this process is engaging in thoughtful conversations around racism and discrimination, listening to each other.”