Ontario says it’s investing $300,000 to combat Islamophobia in schools across the province as incidents of hate crimes against the Muslim community rise in Canada, Education Minister Stephen Lecce announced Tuesday.
In a news release, Ontario cited Statistics Canada data that shows an increase in anti-Muslim attacks this year compared to the previous year.
“This is simply unacceptable and it must stop,” Lecce said of the attacks.
“Too many stories of students within our schools targeted because of their faith. Our goal is to create an inclusive education system that stands firmly against hatred and discrimination and stands for inclusion and respect.”
The announcement comes just weeks after four members of a London, Ont. family were killed, and a fifth injured, by a man who police say was motivated by anti-Muslim hate.
The bulk of the funding — $225,000 — will go to the Muslim Association of Canada to create digital resources for educators, students and parents to raise awareness about Islamophobia.
The rest of the funding will go to the National Council of Canadian Muslims to help Muslim newcomers navigate their new country and to help those new students prepare for school in the fall.
Detailed back-to-school plan expected in the coming weeks, Lecce said
Lecce also took questions on the province’s back-to-school plan for the fall, saying Ontario is still committed to getting students back into school full-time and in-person.
“We are firmly committed to delivering, in the coming weeks, a detailed plan,” Lecce said, adding that they are waiting to receive final advice from the Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore, who just began his tenure over the weekend.
Lecce also said that the expected plan will include guidance on how to safely implement extracurricular activities, clubs and sports for students.
“We know how important it is and we are on the side of parents that want to see that happen,” he said.
While Ontario has said it plans to offer both in-person and virtual learning options for the 2021-22 school year — questions remain around how exactly that will be rolled out.
Lecce has previously said that Ontario is committed to a full-time in-person return to school in September, but that parents should get a choice in whether or not to send their kids back to school with COVID-19 still a threat in much of the province.
But teachers’ unions say that public education will suffer if teachers are forced to offer instruction both in-person and on-screen at the same time.
Lecce said that Ontario is seeking advice from Dr. Ronald Cohn, president and CEO of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, and Moore about reopening schools safely.