Kitchener MPP calls for equity audit across Ontario schools, as education bill is tabled for 2nd reading

As Kitchener Centre MPP Laura Mae Lindo’s bill on racial equity in education heads to the legislature for a second reading, the MPP said she also wants to see an equity audit across all Ontario public schools.

Laura Mae Lindo says audit would reveal 'pattern' of racism

Portrait of woman
Laura Mae Lindo is the NDP candidate in Kitchener Centre for the 2018 provincial election. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

As Kitchener Centre MPP Laura Mae Lindo's bill on racial equity in education heads to the legislature for a second reading Wednesday, she is also calling for an equity audit across all Ontario public schools. 

It comes after the province's education minister ordered a review of how staff at John Sweeney Catholic Elementary School in Kitchener handled a situation where police were called to deal with a four-year-old student's behaviour. 

Lindo says the incident speaks to a common problem of Black students being treated more harshly than their classmates and said looking at the situation by itself won't capture the full scope of the issue. 

"When you look at a separate incident of racism, siloed from the other incidents, you don't see the pattern," said Lindo, who is also the NDP's anti-racism critic, on The Morning Edition

"It's that pattern that actually allows us to see the kinds of systemic changes that we need."

Lindo's bill, the Racial Equity in the Education System Act, would amend the Education Act to include definitions of racism and of anti-racism. It would also require the Minister of Education to set out consistent policies around:

  • Racial equity training for teachers. 
  • Resources for students affected by racism. 
  • Procedures for reporting incidents of racism.

The Waterloo Catholic District School Board has disputed the idea that the calling of police was linked to systemic racism, though the board said it can't comment on specifics around the incident due to privacy legislation. 

The Waterloo Region Catholic Education Centre is pictured in February, 2022. The board has said privacy legislation prevents it from commenting about an incident where police were called to a Catholic elementary school to deal with a child's behaviour. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC)

Anti-Black racism 'really important' to track: expert

Lance McCready, an associate professor in the University of Toronto's Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, said an audit of the education system is "a long time coming." 

"I think there is enough historical information and understanding to say that anti-Black racism is a really important issue that we should be auditing in our school systems," said McCready, who added this type of racism can manifest in educators holding low expectations of Black students, disproportionately disciplining them and streaming them into special education. 

"If we don't develop a set of assessment and auditing practices, then we can never really show that we're making progress around it." 

Ideally, McCready said the audit should also drill down to understand how multiple factors, such as race, gender, and immigration status, can interact with one another to affect students' outcomes. 

In response to a request for comment on Lindo's call for an equity audit, Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the province is "squarely focused" on driving racism out of schools by ensuring accountability for people who perpetrate hate. 

Lecce noted the province has eliminated discretionary suspensions for students between kindergarten and Grade 3, and is ending the practice of streaming secondary students into applied and academic courses — a practice that has been shown to disproportionately affect Black and low-income students

"We will continue to take action provincewide and hold school boards accountable to challenge the status quo and deliver positive and fulfilling experiences for all children, irrespective of their heritage, faith, orientation, or colour of skin," Lecce said in an emailed statement. 

Lindo's bill is set to debated at about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Lindo said the legislature can pass bills quickly when it's a priority and hopes this is one of them. 

"The community wants to see the change, and many educators want the anti-racist training to do better at work," she said. "And so why don't we just take a deep breath, dig deep and do it?"

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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