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It is important for young students from all backgrounds to know and understand the contributions made to our country by African-Canadians.

It is particularly important that Black students know Blacks played an important role in developing the Canada we know today.

Listening to the dominant political discourse in our country, one is left with the impression that the only history that matters is that of the French and English. How insulting it must be for Aboriginal people to hear the English and French described in history books as the two founding nations.

Likewise, the history and rich contribution of Blacks is rarely mentioned in our schools except during Black History Month.

40% of Black Caribbean teens drop out of high school every year in Toronto. What does this say about us as a community where parents, politicians and pundits cannot agree on what must be done to reverse this shameful trend? Surely, we can provide these young people with an education that includes their rich and vibrant story.

And, if that means setting up a Black-focused school so Black kids can learn about real heroes and role models then so be it. It is time for us all to step back and take a deep breath; Toronto and Canada are rapidly changing. Toronto is no longer a Eurocentric city. The curriculum in our schools should reflect this reality.

We also need leadership, vision and strategic thinking from the premier of Ontario and not his knee jerk and inflammatory language that only serves to inflame passions around this issue. Dalton McGuinty needs to be making the connections between his “war on poverty” and race, where this problem has its roots.

Last year, the Colour of Justice Network launched their province-wide, community-based campaign on the Colour of Poverty. Their report draws direct links between race and poverty. While there is a growing gap between rich and poor in Ontario, racialized communities experience a disproportionate share of poverty. According to professor Grace-Edward Galabuzi of Ryerson University, “In Toronto, they are three times more likely to be poor because of the challenges and barriers they face in the job market.”

Black-focused schools are a desperate cry for help from committed parents in the Black community. Surely, we can open our minds enough to hear those cries.

Sid Ryan, President
CUPE Ontario