A new school year heralds a world of possibilities and fresh starts. The Ontario Human Rights Commission’s (OHRC) extends a warm and enthusiastic welcome to all students, educators, parents and guardians as they embark on this new school year – a journey that paves the way for a brighter future. Your dedication and hard work are truly commendable. With a new curriculum geared to enhance literacy and math skills, the OHRC believes that the next few years in Ontario’s schools will help more students reach their potential.
But we also recognize that our students’ future requires more than academic excellence.
The need for school environments that are free from hate cannot be overstated.
As the school year begins, we must actively and intentionally work to end the scourges of hate and violence in our education systems and communities. The rise in hate has a toxic impact and is severely detrimental to students’ mental health and well-being. Specifically, 2SLGBTQQIA+, Indigenous, Black, and other racialized students face the brunt of hatred and racism, but it also affects people with disabilities, Muslim students, and other Code-protected groups. At the end of the last school year, we called on the province to protect these students—to afford them the opportunity to learn in safe, supportive and affirming school environments, from K-12 to post-secondary. Educators and staff should also be able to teach in an environment devoid of racism, hatred, and discrimination.
Across Canada, police-reported hate crime continues to increase, rising 7 per cent overall from 2021 to 2022.[i] Black, Jewish, and 2SLGBTQIA+ are the most frequently targeted communities. Black and 2SLGBTQIA+ communities each experienced a 12 per cent increase in hate crimes since 2021[ii], and in nearly half of reports of discrimination, race or ethnicity was cited as the reason.[iii]
One of the OHRC’s strategic focuses is promoting and strengthening a human rights culture in Ontario. Fundamental to this culture is the recognition that everyone, regardless of their background, deserves the chance to flourish in an environment free from hate, discrimination, and racism. Education is the cornerstone upon which this culture is built. Therefore, the OHRC stresses the importance of anti-discrimination and human rights training to shape the values and attitudes of educators and future generations, and to protect vulnerable students, educators, and allies against the harmful impacts of hate in all its forms.
Hate is incompatible with a free, just and peaceful society where values of compassion, belonging, and respect are the norm. The OHRC reiterates its call for a province-wide anti-hate strategy and remains steadfast in its unwavering commitment to promoting and advancing human rights in Ontario.