Jun. 16, 2021
The message below was sent to all CBE staff members from Chief Superintendent Christopher Usih on Wednesday, June 16, 2021.
I want to provide update on CBE CARES: the Collaboration for Anti-Racism and Equity Supports.
In early 2021, Dr. Marie Delorme of the Imagination Group conducted meetings with our advisory council (including students and staff) and hosted listening sessions with parents/guardians and staff to hear their perspectives on racism, discrimination and other barriers to inclusion in our schools and workplaces.
I am grateful to the advisory council members for their commitment and contribution to this important work. I also appreciate the bravery and the candour of everyone who participated in the conversations — both in the advisory council meetings as well as in the listening sessions.
In addition to meetings I held with Indigenous Elders on the CBE Elders Advisory Council, the Indigenous Education Team also conducted one-on-one meetings with Elders to seek their guidance. We are grateful to our Elders for sharing their perspectives.
At the listening sessions, parents/guardians, employees, and community members shared their experiences and talked about obstacles students face in achieving full and meaningful participation in the school system. While there was praise for all the good work that happens daily in CBE schools, we also heard stories about racism and discrimination experienced by students, staff, and parents/guardians.
I want to be clear: There is no place for racism in the CBE. As a public school system that welcomes all, we are committed to success for all students – regardless of race, ancestry, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, language, physical and intellectual ability, religion, sex, sexual orientation, socio-economic status or other factors. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta Human Rights Act guarantee individual rights and freedoms and make it abundantly clear that racism and discrimination have no place in civil society.
We acknowledge racism exists in society and in our schools and workplaces. Eradicating racism is our collective responsibility. The tragic discovery of the remains of 215 children at the former Kamloops Indian Residential School and senseless killing of a Muslim family in London Ontario is evidence of harm caused by racism. We cannot change the past, but we can influence the future.
Each one of us has a role to play. It begins with a personal reflection – assessing our own biases and committing to action whenever we witness racism and discrimination. I know I can count on you for your support.
What is the next step?
Addressing racism and discrimination is ongoing work. It takes more than one conversation with staff, students, and community. The CBE is committed to positive change. Thank you in advance for being a part of the solution.
We are working with Dr. Marie Delorme on actionable strategies to advance this work. We are accounting for the input gathered from the advisory council and listening sessions and reflecting best practices to address racism and discrimination in the school board context.
From what we have heard so far we do know that professional learning will be an important part of addressing racism and discrimination. We also know that our efforts cannot be “one off” events but must become part of the fabric of CBE. Accordingly, we will be taking the time necessary to do this right. I will share more information in the fall regarding where we are at in our plans for professional learning and staff development sessions to advance antiracism and equity in the CBE.
Thank you for your commitment to positive change and success for all in the CBE.
Chief Superintendent of Schools