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Education

There is a misconception that queer issues are not on the ballot, especially for a municipal election. In reality, our City Council has immense power and influence over how the day to day lives of Ottawa residents. Policy decisions and funding priorities made by councils and school boards that impact one marginalized community impact us all. Whether you’re voting age or know people who are, this information hub can help you understand the local context for municipal issues that acutely impact 2SLGBTQIA+ lives in Ottawa.

Educational spaces are where young people spend most of their time outside the home and gain the building blocks they need to pursue their futures. Unfortunately, according to UNICEF’s Canadian Index Of Child And Youth Well-Being, “school is not a place of support for more than half of children and youth (57.1 per cent).” Not only this but around 1 in 4 children attend their schooling or go to bed hungry. How can our youth learn, grow, and envision prosperous futures when these basic needs are unmet by their schools? Though many political systems that make decisions about public education are provincial, municipal elections are highly important due to the vote for School Board Trustees as they vote on policies and budgets that have direct impacts on the daily experiences of students. This is especially true for Ottawa’s trustee elections, as vocal anti-trans activists are on the ballot this fall.

“People need to connect with candidates in their zones and ask tough questions about their values. They need to support and organize with 2SLGBTQ+ community groups in holding candidates accountable in upholding human rights, and they need to cast an informed vote.”

Rainbow Ottawa Student Experience (ROSE)

In order for schools to be life-affirming spaces, those most adversely impacted by current barriers to belonging must be centred. According to Egale, “70% of young people reported hearing discriminatory remarks against LGBTQ individuals on a daily basis.” With 10% of respondents from the same study reporting hearing these derogatory comments from adults in their schools, Boards need to begin collecting more data on their staff and governance demographics to decipher if their hiring and training practices reflect and protect their 2SLGBTQ+ populations. Comprehensive sex education must be understood as a crucial tool to ensuring queer kids feel they belong in schools. This is because when queer and trans youth see themselves in their learning materials and within the staff that teach them, they see value within themselves. An absence of LGBTQ representation in these areas tells these youth, as well as their cis or straight peers and teachers, that queer and trans existences don’t belong at school.

Research shows that the practice of academic streaming has led to racist segregation of students not unlike the segregation of disabled students. ‘Special Education’ programs are also of concern as the needs of a student are not special or extraordinary but instead are simply needs. Moreover, the widespread use of Applied Behavioural Analysis within educational spaces is harming autistic students. We need to elect Trustees that will use the power they have to end these discriminatory practices for students of all grades and advocate to the province to see real change. 

The Rideau Student’s Union in Ottawa has been outlining the importance of the upcoming election with their Board of Trustees Project. In their focus, schools must be dismantling systemic barriers to student autonomy and equity for true progress. One example of this is the maintenance of police-free schools, a vision led by Asilu Collective. Asilu’s 2021 report exposed how SROs disproportionately “created an uncomfortable and hostile learning environment for racialized, 2SLGBTQ+ and gender-oppressed students.” This report mirrored the findings of Ottawa Carleton District School Board’s Human Rights review of the program, whose recommendations led to the city-wide cancelation of the program at its roots. Despite this, the cessation of the program is still reliant on the makeup of School Board Trustees, as attempts to increase police presence have taken place. Their demands for equity also include the reimplementation of masking within schools. As there is more COVID19 in our local wastewater than we have ever had heading back into back-to-school season and the emergence of MPX in children in the states, it is evident that scientific transmission mitigation measures must return to schools. Aligned with provincial legislation, communicable disease prevention duties of our principals and School Boards must be actioned with the highest of priorities. 

Equitable education IS on the ballot this fall! Review Rideau Student Union’s and Parents of Black Children’s tracking of current and candidate Trustees to stay informed on who deserves our votes in October.

Inclusion and equity, not tolerance.

In order for our schools to foster learning and success for all students, inclusion and equity must be prioritized. Simply adopting measures of tolerance towards disabled, racialized, and 2SLGBTQIA+ students is not enough. These students must see themselves in the curriculum they are consuming, in the staff they that teach them, and in the policies that impact their day to day lives in their school’s hallways. Tolerance for transphobia, racism, ableism and other exclusionary practices is a threat to the belonging and safety of all. 

Demand that your Trustee candidates:

1. Advocate for Comprehensive Sex Education and entrench its values into Board policies. 

2. Collect and publish data on the representation and experiences of 2SLGBTQIA+ educational, support, administrative, and governance staff.

3. Pass policy to support section 265 of the Education Act, preventing communicable diseases, by reimplementing mandatory masking and other science-based mitigation measures for the current MPX and COVID-19 pandemics.

4. Increase student autonomy within schools by placing weight into student voices via more power to Student Senates and implementing the student recommendations in Asilu’s report (sections 29 / 30).

5. Condemn and resist harmful educational practices like academic streaming, ‘special education / ability’ distinctions, and ABA use in schools.

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