Ontario education workers call for action on anti-Palestinian racism

PV staff  

A group of education workers in Ontario has issued an open letter calling on decision makers within the province’s public school system to take action against anti-Palestinian racism.

The letter was sent by Labour 4 Palestine: Ontario Education Workers to Education Minister Stephen Lecce and several senior officials in the Education Ministry, as well as officials at the province’s four school board associations: the Ontario Public School Board Association, Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, Association des conseils scolaires des écoles publiques de l’Ontario and Association franco-ontarienne des conseils scolaires catholiques. It was copied to student trustee associations and the unions representing teachers and education workers throughout Ontario.

The letter states:

“We are Ontario Education Workers from the school districts of Durham, Dufferin-Peel, Greater Essex, Halton, Hamilton-Wentworth, Independent Schools, Lakehead, Near North, Ottawa-Carleton, Peel, Superior-Greenstone, Toronto, Thames Valley, Upper Grand, Waterloo Region and York. Each of us supports Ontario children, youth and adults through our roles as caretakers, lunchroom supervisors, designated early-childhood educators, office administrators, social workers, teachers, caregivers and more.

“We see the impact of the ongoing genocide of Palestinians in our school communities through rampant anti-Palestinian racism, the systematic erasure of Palestine in school and board-level conversations and initiatives, the abuse of employer mechanisms to isolate and discipline individual workers speaking up about Palestine, the conflation of antisemitism with criticism of Israel, and the continued harm caused to Palestinians in the diaspora.

The group also calls for several concrete actions, which it says are intended to “amplify the demands by Palestinian family groups in Ontario, such as the Coalition for Palestinian Students and Families and Toronto Palestinian Families.”

The recommendations include action to:

  • Develop strategies, legislation, and policy and program memorandums that combat anti-Palestinian racism in all school boards, that includes accountability and measurable tools for implementation.
  • Develop and offer educational resources and training at all levels related to Palestinian human rights and naming and identifying anti-Palestinian racism.
  • Allocate funding to non-profit community organisations to develop and implement public school presentations on Palestinian culture and heritage.
  • Develop a Palestine Heritage week during the school year to celebrate culture and heritage in schools.
  • Publicly affirm that students and staff will not be punished for supporting Palestinian human rights, criticizing the state of Israel, and/or standing in solidarity with Palestinians and their right to freedom and peace on their ancestral homelands.
  • End collaborations with groups that perpetrate anti-Palestinian racism, harass students and staff, target progressive Jewish voices or push for curbs on civil liberties.
  • Build positive collaborations with organizations that teach Jewish identity that is not inherently linked to Israel, and recognize diversity within Jewish populations.
  • Acknowledge harm done to Palestinian families by the erasure of Palestinian suffering in communications to parents and caregivers, and continued silence of Ontario during what the United Nations calls an “unparalleled and unprecedented” killing of civilians leading Gaza to become “a graveyard for children.”

Labour 4 Palestine: Ontario Education Workers invites education workers in Ontario to anonymously endorse the open letter. They can be reached by email at L4POntEdWorkers <at> gmail.com.

[Photo: Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East]

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