Upon hearing of two recent racially charged incidents within schools in Waterloo Region, MPP Laura Mae Lindo knew it was the time to build momentum behind Bill 67.
The Racial Equity in Education Systems Act begins by embedding anti-racist language into pieces of legislation from kindergarten to grade 12, and all throughout post secondary.
The bill's goal is to create a culture in which people are educated across the province and to abolish racism within schools.
MPP Lindo debated the bill on Wednesday evening at Queens Park in the legislature at second reading and received support from all sides.
A recorded vote on the motion was deferred and will be held on Thursday. If it is approved, the bill will be put forth for a committee review and then will be moved to a third and final reading.
"The idea behind this bill is to first put in some definitions, so we're all on the same page about the veracity of the experiences. People should know that the systems around them actually do believe that racism exists and is deeply rooted within our school system," said MPP Lindo. "Most importantly, I want people to know that there is hope. That there are ways we can actually make shifts happen in schools that facilitate the creation of anti-racist educational space."
Recently, news broke of a four-year-old Black student within the local Catholic school board system, who had the police called on him due to his behaviour. Prior to that, two young radicalized students were allegedly bound and left in a dark room by one of their teachers as a form of discipline.
According to MPP Lindo, who is also the NDP's anti-racism critic, she has heard of many stories like the one above within the education system.
"We had a situation where anti-black racism was making a splash in media in the Peel District School Board. Prior to that, we had examples in the York District School Board as well as in Simcoe and Windsor," she said. These acts of racism included anti-black, anti-Indigenous, antisemitism and Islamophobia.
"Waterloo Region now had concrete examples of something that we know we don't want in our school system," added MPP Lindo. "Those two cases provided an opportunity for Waterloo Region to be an active player in the fight for anti-racist education in the province."
The most recent case of the student being escorted from school really emphasized the need for Bill 67, according to Lindo.
"The principal of the school said that every ministry policy was followed. That still resulted in a four-year-old being in the back seat of a cruiser (police) in a booster seat being sent home with officers," she said. "The policies are being followed and the outcome is still the disproportionate disciplining of a Black child."
According to MPP Lindo, that is the reason why the debate was so important. "It's not that I just started the bill at the time that those incidents happened locally. There was an opportunity for me to introduce this bill to the people who are also really interested in making sure that something like that doesn't ever happen again."
Before the debate, she said that the bill had received support from all the major unions, student advocacy groups, and young people. Recently, a student approached her about collecting signatures for supporting the bill. Their hope was that the bill would not only pass the second reading, but would eventually become law in Ontario.
"These are students that want to do that kind of advocacy because they see what's happening on the ground in their schools," said MPP Lindo.
She added this bill would include calling for an equity audit that's embedded in the bill and making sure that race-based data is not only collected but appropriately used.
"The data collected would actively create initiatives and investments that would allow us to address the gap in the system that we are going to find," she said. "I say that we're going to find it because we already have these research reports that have told us this, so this is making sure that we take those reports seriously."