Congratulations to Dr. Chika Oriuwa who made history as the second Black female valedictorian at the University of Toronto (U of T) Faculty of Medicine. 

The first generation Nigerian Canadian was the only Black medical student in her 2016 class of 259 people.

Check out her valedictorian speech from the virtual graduation ceremony below:

Meanwhile in Canada, an Ottawa woman identified as Shania Lavallee reportedly circulated a Snapchat video online that appeared to mock George Floyd’s death.

Shania reportedy shared the video of her sister Justine Lavallee, who is a Program Officer at the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), and Justine’s boyfriend, Gilmour Maurice Driscoll, who seemed to be re-enacting his final moments.

Shania has since issued an apology, saying they were “play fighting” and she sees how it could be “taken out of context.”

Her employer, Boston Pizza Orleans, which is minority-owned, said she was “terminated immediately.”

Update: Earlier reports indicated that Shania Lavalle worked for the Ottawa Catholic School Board but OCSB said she is NOT one of their employees. 

Correction: An earlier version of this post mistated that Shania Lavellee was a Ottawa U student. She recently graduated from the University of Ottawa.

Follow @Solitisak on Instagram for more info on what happened

Arlene Huggins was handpicked by Education Minister Stephen Lecce to investigate the PDSB’s compliance after its failure to adhere to 27 Ministerial Directions it received.  The former president of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL) earned a law degree from the University of Toronto in 1989. She was also on the founding Board of […]

Following the release of a damning report of systemic anti-Black racism within the Peel District School Board (PDSB), Ontario’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce issued 27 directives on March 13, 2020 that were to be implemented by the organization under strict timelines.

In a news release, the Ministry of Education stated that these directives to the PDSB are “aimed at addressing the systemic discrimination, specifically anti-Black racism; human resources practices; board leadership and governance issues.”

The PDSB, which is responsible for over 155,000 students across 257 schools in Caledon, Brampton, and Mississauga, has since admitted to “systemic racism” within the Board, and issued a formal apology for the “hurt and harm” inflicted on the Black community.

Last November, the Ontario government announced a formal review of Canada’s second largest school board, stemming from years of racism and human rights complaints. The three-member Review team was led by Human Rights lawyer Ena Chadha, lawyer and former president of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL) Shawn Richard, and former deputy minister Suzanne Herbert.

From December 2019 to early February 2020, they considered over 160 written submissions, conducted 115 interviews and held 4 community and engagement sessions, where they heard from more than 300 individuals in various Peel and Toronto locations.

Below are some key findings from the Review published in March:

  • 83% of high school students in the PDSB are racialized yet 67% of its teachers are white
  • Black students were subjected to constant police intervention
  • Black students were grossly overrepresented in suspensions, some as early as junior kindergarten. They are only 10.2% of the secondary school population, but account for 22.5% of the students receiving suspensions
  • Black students felt that they were held to higher standards and different codes of conduct in comparison to White or other racialized students
  • Black students expressed that Black History should be a part of the curriculum and it should be more than just about slavery
  • Teachers and principals made degrading, inappropriate and racist comments about Black students and staff
  • Failure to intervene on the part of teachers regarding the frequent use of the N-word by students and micro-aggressions in the classroom
  • PDSB Director of Education Peter Joshua has served in his role since July 2017 but has never had a performance appraisal
  • Numerous Black educators had been promoted out of their positions when they spoke out against White supremacy and oppression

Despite saying work had already begun on the directives, reports are that little has changed in the Board. After a breakdown in mediation last month, Education Minister Stephen Lecce took further action and appointed lawyer Arleen Huggins to conduct an investigation into the PDSB’s compliance with the Minister’s binding Directions.

Lecce said he would not tolerate “delay or inaction” when it comes to “confronting racism and discrimination” and “will do whatever it takes to ensure these issues are addressed immediately and effectively.”

Ms. Huggins is expected to deliver her report to the Minister by May 18, 2020.

Minister’s Directions: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/new/minister-directions-pdsb-review.pdf
Final Report: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/new/review-peel-district-school-board-report-en.pdf

We face challenges at all levels of Canadian education system not because we are not smart. In face Statistics Canada data indicate 34% of racialized Canadians have at least first degree compared to 20% of non-racialized Canadians. In simple terms, racialized Canadians are more educated. Why is the education system failing our children? This is a million-dollar question that requires million-dollar answer, but we cannot completely answer it. Racism, discrimination, bullying and intimidation, lack of cultural competency, low expectations and morale, lack of role models and socio-economic factors work against our children in the education system.

We have the opportunity to stay engaged. Let’s participate in the school system, join the school council in your neighbourhood. Go to your child’s school often. Let their teachers know you will follow up and demand explanation. Never accept in face value what the teachers say about your child. Encourage your children, take keen interest in their education. Let’s come together to help demand change in the education system for our own future sake. Join the ACAO education committee.