Peel School Board Approves Anti-Islamophobia Strategy

Thanks to remarkable efforts by school trustee Nokha Dakroub, Ontario’s Peel District School Board (PDSB) has become the first school board to announce the implementation of an anti-Islamophobia strategy for both staff and students.

The strategy, proposed by Dakroub, was approved in a September 30 meeting for the school board, requiring all staff participate in anti-Islamophobia training, CBC reported.

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“We need to continue doing work, through public education, to combat the elements of hate that exist in our society,” she said.

Launching their struggle against Islamophobia, Muslim students, teachers and educational leaders are among those working to make our classrooms more inclusive.

The Peel Board is the first in the Greater Toronto Area to commit to creating such a strategy.

The PDSB will create a committee, made up of board members and community members, that will be responsible for overseeing the rollout of the strategy.

In addition to training for staff, the strategy will include accountability measures, and regular communication with the broader community, and it will focus on education and building understanding.

Moving in Right Direction

Dakroub believes Canada is slowly moving in the right direction as more Canadians acknowledge serious issues facing the nation, such as systemic racism against Black and Indigenous people.

“This is not going to be an overnight fix. We’re not going to roll out a strategy in a few months and then all of a sudden declare that Islamophobia is over and we no longer have an issue. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take multiple opportunities of learning and unlearning,” said Dakroub. 

“Is it going to work? I think it will, because I strongly believe that education is the key to — and specifically public education is the key to — raising awareness and changing the world.” 

Alisha Aslam, a 16-year-old student who lives in neighbouring Toronto, is also a member of the Ontario Provincial Youth Cabinet who passionately advocate campaigns against discrimination both in school and in her northeast Toronto community.

“I wanted to see change happening — not in the next few years, but I want to see it right now,” she said.

The teen added however that Islamophobia “isn’t just an issue for Muslims” to grapple with.

“This is really an issue for humanity and for all of us Canadians to solve.” 

Rising Hate

Muslims are the fastest-growing religious community in Canada, according to the country’s statistical agency, Statistics Canada.

Historically, Canada’s Muslim population increased by 82 percent over the past decade – from about 579,000 in 2001 to more than 1 million in 2011.

Islamophobic attacks across Canada have risen at alarming levels. The attacks have not only increased in frequency, and many are directed towards visibly Muslim women and girls.

Street racism is often inspired by online hate speech and extremism, which have surged in Canada.

 This summer, the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) released a set of 61 policy recommendations for all levels of government to take action against Islamophobia, including measures for Canada’s education system.

The non-profit advocacy group developed the recommendations after holding consultation sessions with mosques, community groups and organizations representing Canadian Muslims across the country.