Peel District School Board director should resign
Harkirat Singh is a Brampton City Councillor and former PDSB trustee. The views expressed are his and not necessarily shared by The Pointer.
The profound failure to address anti-Black racism at the PDSB is deeply shameful.
As a former school board trustee with the PDSB, I am shocked by the continued inability of the PDSB to genuinely address anti-Black racism. I believe any attempt by the PDSB to address systemic anti-Black racism and other forms of institutionalized racism within the board, must begin with the Director of Education, Peter Joshua, stepping down.
Anti-Black racism at the PDSB is not new. In March of 2015, United Way of Peel released the Facilitating Access, Change and Equity in Systems (FACES) report, commissioned by the organization in partnership with a number of other community groups to learn more about the circumstances faced by Black communities in Peel.
The report reaffirmed what many already knew, that anti-Black racism existed in Peel and Black youth were suffering in schools.
It found that teachers had low expectations of Black students compared to other students, that Black students were streamed away from math and science, and there was a difference in discipline for Black students compared to other students.
However, there were attacks on the report’s methodology, so in response, the PDSB set out to conduct its own primary research. The results of this research were released in a report entitled, “We Rise Together” in September of 2016. It uncovered findings such as: Black students were often the victims of many insults and racist jokes; and certain teachers had routinely displayed a disrespectful and negative attitude toward Black students.
Armed with previous research and the board’s own We Rise Together report, I distinctly recall our then director, Tony Pontes, making it his mission at the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year to address anti-Black racism.
I remember standing proudly with him alongside other trustees and thinking that we were finally going to do something about this issue, which had been swept under the rug for far too long.
The great thing about the We Rise Together report was the extensive action plan that was created, which seemed to offer a real roadmap to tackle anti-Black racism head-on.
After the retirement of Tony Pontes, Peter Joshua began shortly after in May of 2017. Given all the research, reports and the action plan, he should have hit the ground running in the fight against anti-Black racism.
Brampton City Councillor and former PDSB trustee Harkirat Singh says board Director Peter Joshua, above, needs to resign
Unfortunately, under his leadership relationships with community organizations broke down, staff were silenced, and ultimately Black students suffered.
Two years later, in November of 2019, the Ministry of Education was forced to launch a review of systemic racism including anti-Black racism and Islamophobia inside PDSB. The findings were released in March and they painted a horrific picture of the state of affairs at the PDSB.
The review provided 27 directives for the PDSB to follow. However, community members suspected Joshua and many PDSB trustees, including the chair, were not taking the investigation seriously, which was confirmed last week when a follow-up report was filed on the implementation of the binding directives from the Province’s review.
The findings are appalling. Not only did the investigator find the PDSB lacks the capacity and ability to address anti-Black racism, but more disturbingly, it also “lacks the will”.
The report goes on to say that the PDSB is not serious about the directions outlined by the ministry to address anti-Black racism and that even after all this time, after all the research, reports and apologies, the PDSB still has a misunderstanding of what anti-Black racism actually is.
Additionally, the report specifically calls out Director Joshua for lacking the capacity to lead the implementation of the binding direction from the provincial government regarding systemic anti-Black racism and other forms of discrimination, and not demonstrating any sense of urgency to address the directives.
There is no way around it, the Director has shown gross negligence and unbearable incompetence in addressing anti-Black racism. Individuals and organizations from the communities who are leading this fight, many of whom I have developed personal relationships with, have challenged the PDSB with unparalleled tenacity and determination. What I see firsthand is the pain, hurt and trauma that Director Joshua’s actions (and inactions) have caused Black communities, particularly our Black students. Indeed, every time a new report is released regarding anti-Black racism at the PDSB, it is a stark reminder to all of us that anti-Black racism continues to flourish at the PDSB.
What I do know is that for any authentic attempt to address anti-Black racism, and for any healing with the Black community to begin, it must start with the departure of Director Peter Joshua.
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