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Toronto School System Creates Anti-Asian Racism Resource for Teachers

  • Teachers in the Toronto District School Board now have a comprehensive resource in their efforts to address anti-Asian racism, which has spiked in Canada’s capital city since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

    The document was created by a panel of educators of Asian descent and is based on their personal and professional experiences. The resource is for all grades, K-12. 

    “Acts of anti-Asian discrimination are unacceptable and cause harm to the health, well-being and safety of educators, students, families and communities,” said Karen Falconer, the district’s director of education. “This much needed resource offers new approaches to learning and innovative actions to identify, name and address anti-Asian racism in partnership with families and communities.”

    The Toronto school district serves approximately 247,000 students and, according to the document, more that 47 percent of Toronto’s student population self-identifies as Asian. 

    The guide provides teachers with context on such subjects as the diversity among Asian-Canadians—who hail from Afghanistan to Sri Lanka to South Korea and numerous countries in between--and offers a framework for building an anti-oppressive learning environment. The guide also details the Black and Indigenous experience and probes how white supremacy and colonialism have impacted all groups. 

    It also explores the “model minority myth,” which the authors describe as portraying Asians as apolitical, quiet,uncomplaining,” a stereotype that can lead to high stress and mental health challenges.

    “If I had teachers teaching me in the way we’re suggesting in this resource, I think it would have made the learning much richer,” Jason Wu, one of the authors, told the Toronto Sun. “It would have made me feel like I belonged more in my classroom.”

    From March to October last year, more than 600 hate incidents including spitting, targeted coughing and other physical violence, were reported across Canada, with a quarter of those events reported in Ottawa, according to the Chinese Canadian National Council. In response, the city of Toronto launched a campaign against East Asian racism last fall.

    The study lays out a timeline of Asian immigration to Canada and of the discriminatory policies and setbacks that ensued. Chinese men first entered the country in large numbers to work in the mining industry and later in construction of the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway. 

    Legal exclusionary roadblocks were subsequently created to hinder entry. In one notorious 1914 incident, hundreds of Sikhs and other Asians aboard the Komagata Maru steamship were denied entry to Vancouver, the ship was turned away and returned to Calcutta (now Kolkata), India. During World War II, Canada, like the United States, confined Japanese Canadians to internment camps. 

    “The anti-Asian discrimination resurfacing today has deep historical, colonial roots in this country and this is an urgent time to ensure we end this troubled history of racism,” said Sam Hammond, president of the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario. While the guide focuses on anti-Asian bias, Hammond acknowledged the need “to affirm and value Black and Indigenous Peoples’ lives,” and sections of the guide focus on their situations.

    The union partnered with the Toronto District School Board to develop the resource. The document, Addressing Anti-Asian Racism: A Resource for Educators, can be found on the Toronto District School Board website.