Grade one teacher Heidi Dimou arranges the desks in line with physical distancing policy in her class in preparation for the new school year at the Willingdon Elementary School in Montreal, on Wednesday, August 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

‘Clearly discriminatory and systemically racist’: Report on B.C. schools board

VICTORIA — An independent report has found systemic racism in a northern British Columbia school board and calls for a provincewide investigation of the issue.

Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside appointed special advisors Kory Wilson and Catherine McGregor to review governance practices at the Prince George Board of Education in February.

Their report, based on 56 interviews, found Indigenous students are disproportionately held back, placed in alternative programs or classes and removed from the typical graduation path.

It says there is a clear and palpable lack of trust between many Indigenous stakeholders, First Nations and the school district, as well as a “substantial culture of fear” about raising concerns.

The report quotes one respondent saying they were told not to use their Indigenous names because “this isn’t the place for politics” and another saying that when they walk into school their “chest tightens.”

The Education Ministry says in a statement that beginning immediately, former school district superintendent Rod Allen will join the special advisors and work with the board to draft a work plan for implementing their recommendations and improve everything from relationships with local First Nations to staffing and financial planning.

The special advisers will submit a final report to outline the progress made by the board in meeting government’s expectations in March 2022.

“Unfortunately, we heard many examples of behaviours and practises that are clearly discriminatory and systemically racist,” the report says.

“Though some will argue it is not intentional the outcomes have disproportionate effects on Indigenous students and can only be explained as such.”

The special advisors also raised concerns about how federal COVID-19 funding was spent at the board.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 28, 2021.

The Canadian Press