TDSB unanimously passes motion to create anti-Islamophobia strategy

TDSB votes in favour of developing an anti-Islamophobia strategy. Melissa Nakhavoly with the impact this will have on students.

By Melissa Nakhavoly and John Marchesan

The Toronto District School Board has voted unanimously to implement an anti-Islamophobic strategy after a number of students and parents expressed concerns.

In the motion that was put forth, trustees noted that hate crimes against members of the Muslim community have been on the rise in Canada and have had a significant impact on students who identify as Muslim, not only in TDSB schools but in the broader community.

“This new strategy will set an example of targeted universalism as we recognize everyone benefits from TDSB’s target removal of systemic barriers faced by the most disadvantaged communities,” said Liban Hassan, the trustee who brought the motion before the board. “Reducing these barriers and disparities leads to a better education system for all TDSB students.”

Trustees who spoke in favour of the motion noted there were still hurdles to overcome in the broader community at large.

“Islamophobia is not just experienced in our schools, but our students are impacted by what they see in the media, what they see in the news, how they are being portrayed in movies, how their parents are treated at their workplaces – all of these system issues contribute to it,” said trustee Neethan Shan.

“We must stand against all forms of hate, regardless of whether we are directly affected by it or not,” said trustee Shelley Laskin. “I have received texts and emails from people that have seen on Facebook groups and on Twitter that I don’t support this motion, so I rise very publicly to say I am in full support of this motion.”

Samya Hasan, with the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA), has been advocating for an anti-Islamophobia strategy within Ontario school boards. She called Wednesday’s vote a historic milestone that will help create a safe learning environment for Muslim students.

“The biggest thing is for students to be able to feel like they can be their authentic and true self in the school system so they don’t have to be forced to hide their identities.”

The TDSB is now the second school board in the province to take on this task, joining the Peel public school board which adopted a strategy of their own, making them the first school board in Canada to create a detailed plan to dismantle Islamophobia.

The TDSB says details of the plan will be released this fall and will be part of the work already being done to address various forms of racism and discrimination through the Anti-Hate and Anti-Racism strategy.

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