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NWT education leaders voice support for anti-racism movements

NWT education leaders have expressed support for social movements confronting racism around the world, and they're urging students to reject all forms of intolerance and bigotry.

Those sentiments were voiced during the education leaders' teleconference on Tuesday with Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) Minister R.J. Simpson, the GNWT stated in a news release.

The leaders "expressed a strong sense of responsibility to publicly support the peaceful protests of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movements that have been taking place globally following the death of African-American George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis on May 25."

Participants in the Black Lives Matter solidarity gathering pump their fists in the air and take a knee on June 9. Several Yellowknifers marched through the streets to 49 Avenue where a series of speakers addressed race, injustice and police brutality issues at the RCMP detachment.
Simon Whitehouse/NNSL photo

They also spoke about the need to combat systemic racism in Canada that targets Indigenous peoples, citing the recent death of 26-year-old Indigenous woman Chantel Moore, who was killed during a wellness check by police on June 4 in New Brunswick; and the violent arrest on March 10 of Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam in Fort McMurray, Alta.

“As education leaders, we have a responsibility to affirm and show solidarity with movements for equality and social justice, internationally, nationally and locally. Systemic racism marginalizes countless groups across our global society and leads to inequities that must be eradicated,” said Tina Drew, chair of Yellowknife Education District No. 1.

Trauma from abuse suffered by generations of residential school students and related historic injustices still weigh on Indigenous families, said the leaders, who also acknowledged the role of schools in educating and empowering students to confront racism.

“'If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.’ NWT leaders and our youth cannot be quietly neutral about horrific historic and modern-day discrimination against Indigenous peoples. We must stand up for change and equality,” said Darlene Gruben, chair of the Beaufort-Delta Divisional Education Council, quoting Desmond Tutu, renowned former South African Archbishop and prominent anti-apartheid figure.

The leaders encourage NWT students to carefully consider how they can fight against racism and intolerance, including ethnic, religious, and sexuality or gender-based discrimination.

"Education plays a critical role in addressing legacies of racism and other forms of discrimination in our society," said Simpson. "I stand beside NWT education leaders in supporting Black Lives Matter and other anti-racist movements, and urge our students to collectively confront racism in their classrooms, communities and country."