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Anti-Black Racism in Education: Community Engagement Sessions in Northern Ontario

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November 17, 2023

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Recently, OHRC Director of Policy, Education, Monitoring and Outreach, Juliette Nicolet, joined Radio-Canada - Jonction 11-17 for an interview to discuss the OHRC’s anti-Black racism in education Action Plan.


Radio-Canada: We're going to talk about systemic racism now, because the Ontario Human Rights Commission has developed a participatory process to hear opinions from the public, organizations, and the education sector in order to eliminate anti-Black racism in Ontario's publicly funded education system. Sudbury is one of six cities in Ontario (and the only city in the north) where these consultations will take place. A virtual session is also planned. That being said, we're going to talk about it with Juliette Nicolet, who is Director of Policy, Monitoring, Education, and Outreach for the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Ms. Nicolet, hello.


Juliette Nicolet: Hello and thank you for having me on your show.


Radio-Canada: First, please explain the background on the consultations and what your aim is with these consultations, Ms. Nicolet.


Juliette Nicolet: Yes, so, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) recognizes that the long-term struggles stemming from systemic anti-Black racism in education have impeded— and continue to impede—the progress of many students, families, and the Black community in Ontario. The recent rise and increased visibility of anti-Black racism in the province has prompted and renewed persistent calls to deal with these issues and address this matter in a very specific way.


Radio-Canada: Who exactly would you like to hear from during the consultations?


Juliette Nicolet: Well, actually, what we've found is that there's a huge amount of reporting focused on the issue, and there are a huge number of stakeholders, but we specifically want to hear the voices of Black communities and professionals in the education system. These are the voices that need to be heard. The OHRC is committed to creating an environment in which Black communities, families, students, as well as Black educators and education professionals feel engaged and can contribute to the collective goal, of fighting anti-Black racism in the province's education system.


Radio-Canada: But what kind of testimonials are you looking for, what kind of experiences would you like us to share with you?


Juliette Nicolet: That's a very good question. We're aware of the problems. We've done some research, not exhaustive, but quite extensive, and we're aware of the problems. What we'd like more information on is what solutions and concrete actions the system should undertake to consistently and rigorously counter anti-Black racism in education.


Radio-Canada: How will this work logistically? I ask because it can be intimidating when consultations are done publicly. Will there be direct interaction with stakeholders? Will it be done in groups? What should people expect in order to be fully prepared for the consultations?


Juliette Nicolet: Well, people should expect engagement and interaction with OHRC staff. We're going to be there in person, we'll be asking certain questions and trying to generate conversation and dialogue, obtain testimonials, and get the opinions and views of as many people as possible on the questions we'll be asking. And the questions are really, well, are there any concrete solutions? Are there potential solutions that could be better implemented? What does success look like? How do we define success? How do we measure the impact of success? And then, also, which field of action is the most important for schools and the education system to in order to have the most impact?


Radio-Canada: You've targeted six cities in Ontario, and Sudbury is the only northern city. Why Sudbury?


Juliette Nicolet: Yes. So, Sudbury. Because Sudbury is beautiful, first of all… The OHRC also believes in the well-being, belonging, and success of Black students in the province of Ontario. And for far too long, Ontario's education system has hindered progress. We know that Sudbury has a Black population, both French-speaking and English-speaking. We know we want to engage with it.  We tried to target cities with large Black populations. We also have other ways of interacting with the public. The public was asked to submit written comments. We had a roundtable discussion in April with professionals and students from across the province, and we also have the opportunity to meet with community organizations from across the province. And some more specific interviews in the weeks and months to follow.


Radio-Canada: What are you going to do with the results of the consultations? What will it be used for?


Juliette Nicolet: Well, it will be used to write a report that will essentially be an Action Plan that will contain calls to action that are based on written contributions, community engagements, meetings with students, the outcome of the roundtables in April, as well as a review of the reports, 83 reports on this, on anti-Black racism in Canada and in Ontario, an analysis, and concrete actions that we're going to put before those with duties related to human rights who are charged with this in the context of education.


Radio-Canada: As for the Sudbury consultation, where will it take place? When is it? And how can you sign up if you want to participate?


Juliette Nicolet: You register directly. We're still in the process of finding the exact location.


Radio-Canada: Okay.


Juliette Nicolet: On the OHRC web page and it's open to the public. So, all you have to do is register and we hope that people will come in large numbers with a desire to propose solutions and actions that we can put forward to duty bearers.


Radio-Canada: Juliette Nicolet, you are the Director of Policy, Education, Monitoring, and Outreach for the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Thank you so much for being with us this afternoon.


Juliette Nicolet: Thank you!