The policy shift follows several years of rising anti-Muslim sentiment.
An Ontario school board made headlines for all the wrong reasons six years ago.
There were racist outbursts at board meetings, a man was filmed tearing pages out of a Qur’an during a discussion about religious accommodations, and Muslim students were told they could only use sermons approved by the board at their Friday prayers, all of which led to an increase in security measures.
Muslims make up the largest reported faith-based identity at the Peel District School Board (PDSB), with roughly a quarter of the board’s student population identifying as Muslim. Today, the PDSB is the first in Canada to adopt a strategy aimed at dismantling Islamophobia and affirming the identity of Muslim students.
According to Aasiyah Khan, the council’s director of education, “the PDSB has set a tremendous example with this anti-Islamophobia strategy that other school boards across the country would be wise to study, examine, and follow.”
Major, long-lasting improvement; a watershed moment
The shooting in Quebec City “really changed this country,” she said, so “it’s really fitting that this announcement is being made in the lead-up to the sixth anniversary of the shooting.” There has never been anything like this before in human history.
In September 2021, former PDSB trustee Nokha Dakroub proposed anti-Islamophobia training for all board staff, which became a cornerstone of the board’s subsequent strategy to combat Islamophobia.
The 2020 review conducted by the Ontario Ministry of Education found that anti-Black racism was a major challenge within the board, as well as the use of Islamophobic resources and teaching materials. According to a statement provided to CBC News, the ministry claims that the anti-Islamophobia strategy addresses recommendation number 14 of the review’s 27 recommendations for combating racism.
Minister of Education Stephen Lecce issued a statement saying, “We welcome PDSB’s commitment to combat discrimination, including actions that are part of Ministry directives, to create inclusive, respectful, and welcoming classrooms for all students at PDSB.”
Ontario’s Human Rights Commission’s definition of Islamophobia is central to the strategy “prejudice, bigotry, or overt acts of hostility toward Muslims or Muslims themselves. Muslims are seen as a greater institutional, systemic, and societal security threat as a result of Islamophobia, in addition to individual acts of intolerance and racial profiling.”
The board says that a cash reward was offered to anyone who would spy on Muslim students as they prayed on Fridays, and that this is just one example of how “these systemic attitudes foster an unwarranted culture of suspicion and surveillance of Muslims and the Muslim community.”