Revising the Canadian school education of Black history
The exclusion of Black history in education promotes racial discrimination in Canadian schools.
Although it has had such a profound impact on the foundation and growth of Canada, Black history has largely been ignored in our education system. Solutions and different education approaches have been proposed, but still, our education of Black history is incomplete and insufficient.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario developed a project named 365 Black Canadian Curriculum. The purpose of this project was to include Black history in every part of the elementary curriculum, and not just during Black History Month. Within this curriculum elementary teachers would also be provided with the factual resources that would support learning behind Black History Education.
You would think that curricula like these would be the start of a definite change in the education system. However, many schools still exclude scholarly work from Black Canadians and the historical impact of Black history. The movement towards a more inclusive curriculum seems to be on the backburner for educators in Ontario.
This theme follows in provinces all over Canada. In Saskatchewan, multiple students have spoken out about being the targets of microaggressions. Belan Tsegaye, a grade 12 student said, “from Grade 9 to Grade 12, I’ve struggled with racism, stereotypes, and discrimination on the daily.”
A petition amassing more than 70,000 signatures to mandate Black history and anti-racism education within schools in the province has been pushed towards the Saskatchewan School Boards Association. But there is still no confirmation on whether voices will be heard.
Educators and municipal governments are continuously failing to give students a safe environment where they can learn alongside their peers. These kids are not asking for much, they should be able to go to school and not fear what form of racial discrimination they will have to face that day.
Natasha Henry is one of the many people advocating for Black history to be mandated in Ontario. The Ontario Black History Society, which Henry is the head of, has been pushing the province toward taking this action for decades.
Advocates like Henry have identified that the way history is taught in Canada is Eurocentric. The contributions of Black Canadians are simply mentioned a handful of times throughout the curriculum. Students’ perspectives are formed around the assumptions that European contributions to the development of our country are more prominent than others.
False narratives and systemic exclusion are some of the root causes of anti-Black racism in schools. Canada is one of the most racially diverse countries in the world. The idea that so many different cultures and ethnicities live within our communities is what we pride ourselves on. But how can we be prideful about the diversity when racism is still a concern, especially in schools?
“Black history is Canadian history,” says Christian Mbanza, a teacher from Saskatchewan who is an advocate for Afrocentric approaches to learning. Students who have been taught by him, especially those who are Black Canadians, express their gratitude that their teacher has taken this step. Kids can now draw connections between racial discriminations from the past and connect them to movements that continue to address the issue today.
“When these stories are not included, it really continues to perpetuate the idea of Black people being the other, of Black people being outside of, as Black people being newer to Canada, even though there is a 400-year presence of Black people in what is now called Canada,” explains Natasha Henry.
Anti-Black racism in schools need to be put to an end. Kids are not racist or discriminatory by nature. Young children need to be taught the importance of Black Canadian history to identify racial discrimination and know how to stand against it. Our education system needs to do better.