Territorial education leaders last week expressed solidarity with current social movements confronting racism against Black and Indigenous peoples, and urged Northwest Territories (NWT) students to reject all forms of racism and intolerance.
During their regular biweekly teleconference with Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) Minister R.J. Simpson on Tuesday, NWT education leaders expressed a strong sense of responsibility to publicly support the peaceful protests of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement that have been taking place globally following the death of African-American George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis on May 25.
Education leaders also took the opportunity Tuesday to emphasize the need to continue fighting for an end to systemic racism targeting Indigenous peoples. Recent examples of this intolerable racism, education leaders said, are the death of 26-year-old Chantel Moore, an Indigenous woman, by police during a wellness check June 4 in New Brunswick, and the violent arrest March 10 of Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam in northern Alberta for expired vehicle license plates.
Education leaders noted many NWT students have been significantly impacted by recent events and demonstrations related to racism. They encourage students to think deeply about how they can positively effect change in the fight against all forms of racism and intolerance, including ethnic, religious, and sexuality or gender-based discrimination.
Indigenous families across the territory continue to deal with the trauma of generations of residential school abuse and historic injustices, education leaders said. They acknowledged that schools have an important role in educating and empowering students to reject all forms of racism and intolerance.
ECE and education bodies continue to focus on development of new curricula and ways of incorporating current affairs to ensure historical injustices related to racism and colonialism are actively addressed in student and teacher learning.
“Education plays a critical role in addressing legacies of racism and other forms of discrimination in our society. I stand beside NWT education leaders in supporting Black Lives Matter and other anti-racist movements, and urge our students to collectively confront racism in their classrooms, communities and country.”
-R.J. Simpson, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment
“’If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.’ NWT leaders and our youth cannot be quietly neutral about horrific historic and modern-day discrimination against Indigenous peoples. We must stand up for change and equality.”
-Darlene Gruben, Chair, Beaufort-Delta Divisional Education Council, quoting South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu
“As education leaders, we have a responsibility to affirm and show solidarity with movements for equality and social justice, internationally, nationally and locally. Systemic racism marginalizes countless groups across our global society and leads to inequities that must be eradicated.”
-Tina Drew, Chair of Yellowknife Education District No.1, on behalf of all NWT education leaders
· BLM is an organized movement advocating for non-violent civil disobedience to protest police brutality against African-American people. The movement began in 2013 with the use of hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media after the 2012 fatal shooting of African-American youth Trayvon Martin. George Floyd’s 2020 death by police has prompted global protests.
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