Thousands are demanding a change to the province's school system. A petition calling on Ontario’s high schools to have a mandatory race and ethnicity course has collected over 40,000 signatures. The online movement asks Minister of Education, Stephen Leece, to create the course to provide students with a better understanding of race issues.

The call-to-action was created by Parnika Raj, a Ryerson University Student. 

The petition’s action plan argues that Ontario’s current education system fails to address the existence of racism. It also claims that students are uneducated on issues like cultural assimilation.

“Our current primary and secondary education programs do not address the existence of racism in Canada in the past and in the present. Without educating students on the full extent of the history of racism and cultural assimilation in the past, we are perpetuating a continual cycle of colonialism today,” the petition states.

“We are not educated about the full extent of slavery and Indigenous genocide that happened in the past, and the lasting effects of that today on racialized, Indigenous, and immigrant populations,” it adds.

The suggested courses would cover a range of topics, including white privilege and microaggressions.

It would also look at how minorities are portrayed in the media, treated in the workplace, and how they are dealt with in Ontario's justice system. 

“The first component of this course will explore the theories and foundations of racism, in order to encourage students to engage in critical thinking through an interdisciplinary lens,” an excerpt from the course description reads.

Raj told CBC that she was inspired to start the petition after witnessing the widespread Black Lives Matters protests, which erupted following the death of George Floyd.

A series of similar petitions which called for mandatory anti-racism courses at Ontario universities were started last month.

For example, a petition on Change.org calling for an obligatory course at the University of Toronto has since reached over 12,000 signatures as of July 3.

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