In 2021, OPSBA took action in the wake of more incidents and evidence of overt and systemic racism, racial injustice, increased hate motivated violence and the horrifying discovery of unmarked Indigenous children’s graves at sites of Canada’s former residential schools. These events underscore the deeply rooted history of colonialism, White supremacy, anti-Indigenous, anti-Black and racialized violence and genocide in Canada.
In June 2020, the OPSBA Board of Directors passed a motion to “determine the best approach to combatting systemic racism and oppressive practices introspectively within our own organization with an expected outcome of determining best practices, strategies, and approaches to advocate and support an inclusive OPSBA organization and to support school boards with regard to Anti-Black and Anti-Indigenous Racism.” That November, the Association hired Turner Consulting Group, a consultancy firm that focuses on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI).
In September 2021, Turner Consulting delivered an EDI Audit Report, based on surveys and consultations with staff, the Executive Council, the Board of Directors, the Indigenous Trustees’ Council (ITC), and Ministry of Education staff – with 29 recommendations for organizational change. These recommendations are designed to ensure OPSBA embeds equity, human rights and anti-oppression principles in its core governance, operations, education and leadership. By adopting these recommendations as part of an integrated organization change plan, the Association will be well-positioned, going forward, as a leading voice and champion of equity, inclusion, and anti-racism in the sector.
Summary of Recommendations
- Identify Key Leadership and Stakeholder Roles and Responsibilities
- Integrated EDI Policy review and development
- Integrated strategic action plans for systemic barrier review and identification
- Creation of impact assessment tools and application
- Monitoring, enhanced research, evaluation, and transparent reporting
- Explicit commitments for better alignment with, and formalized development of, ITC and the creation of a new Black Trustees’ Caucus (BTC)
- Outreach and engagement
- Dedicated Leadership Capacity education, outreach, diverse leadership promotion and competencies for trustee members and staff.
- Mandatory ongoing EDI and human rights professional development and learning
- Modernization of administrative data collection, tracking, and reporting tools; Including comprehensive demographic data collection for students and employees and EDI impact assessments
- Integration of EDI and human rights considerations in hiring of staff, recruitment of trustee members, promotion, mentoring, leadership roles, succession planning and performance management processes
In November 2021, OPSBA hired an Associate Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to help develop an implementation plan for the EDI audit recommendations and strategic framework for organizational change. This plan is required to meet OPSBA’s new strategic equity and human rights commitments. This year a draft framework, policy, workplan and education supports to deliver the recommended actions is in full development.
EDI Audit and the proposed “Integrated Inclusive, Diverse, Equitable, Accessible, Anti-Racist, Anti-Oppressive Systems (IDEAAAS)” Framework and Path Forward
The IDEAAAS Integration Framework is based on consideration of recommendations contained in the Turner Associates Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Audit, as well as a review of the following:
- OPSBA policies and practices
- The current status of Project Compass
- Operational areas needed to support recommendations
- Identified structural and system gaps and work not recommended, but required, to fulfil EDI goals
- Organizational awareness, practices, policy and leadership capacity and maturity required to successfully implement approved audit recommendations
- Education sector legislation requirements
- Human rights commitments
- OPSBA policy that aligns with and build on recommendations
This IDEAAAS Integration Framework will be divided into five distinct areas of focus:
- Governance, Policy, Investigations/Reporting and Organizational Change
- Education, Resource Development, Leadership Capacity
- Data Collection, Research, Monitoring, Evaluation
- Recruitment/ Employment, Workplace Culture, and Labour Relations
- Engagement, Communications, Outreach and Advocacy
The Framework will align and coordinate all areas of this work:
- Inclusion. Creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, represented, supported, and valued to fully participate.
- Diversity. Examining the makeup of an institution to ensure that people from different backgrounds and with multiple perspectives are represented.
- Equity. The fair and just treatment of all members of a community.
- Accessibility. The commitment for everyone along the continuum of human ability and experience to be included in all programs and activities.
- Anti-racism and Anti-oppression. Anti-racism is a process, a systematic method of analysis, and a proactive course of action rooted in the recognition of the existence of racism, including systemic and structural racism. Anti-racism and anti-oppression work actively seeks to identify, remove, prevent, and mitigate oppressive and racially inequitable outcomes and power imbalances between groups, and change the structures, cultures and systems that sustain inequities.
- Systems. All levels of the organization working to bring an equity lens to all that we do – from our major strategic priorities to the countless small decisions we make every day is best done with an integrated systems approach.
This framework will be detailed in OPSBA’s IDEAAAS Integration Policy and associated operational procedures and guidelines – that will build on our EDI Audit Action Plan, Multi-Year Strategic Plan objectives and priorities and set our go-forward action plan goals, systems integration standards, monitoring and evaluation measures to best ensure principles of inclusion, diversity, equity, accessibility and anti-racism/anti-oppression are integrated (IDEAAAS integration) into every aspect of OPSBA’s work.
OPSBA’s Key EDI Accomplishments
OPSBA Board of Directors passes motion to determine the best approaches for combatting systemic racism, oppressive practice, Anti-Black and Anti-Indigenous Racism.
Turner Consulting Group, hired to conduct audit a that focuses on equity, diversity, and inclusion within OPSBA.
Turner Consulting delivered EDI Audit final report with 29 recommendations for organizational change.
OPSBA hired an Associate Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to help development implementation plan for the EDI audit recommendations and organizational change
Provincial Education Symposium features EDI-related professional learnings
- Board of Directors – 90-minute workshop on knowledge and understanding of issues of equity, racism and oppression is provided, and members participated in regional dialogue, hearing next steps for moving the work forward. An EDI work plan and IDEAAAS Integration Framework for organization change was also provided to the Board of Directors.
- OPSBA Executive requests consultation meetings with ITC and Black-identified trustees for input and feedback on EDI audit recommendations 19-29.
- OPSBA staff receive ministry workshop on race-based and EDI demographic data collection strategy and school improvement equity plan goals.
- OPSBA Executive meets with focus group of Black trustees who provide detailed feedback on EDI audit recommendations 24-29 regarding the formation of a Black Trustees Caucus.
- Communications and political engagement plan focused on promoting increased opportunities for diverse trustee candidates in upcoming municipal elections developed and actioned.
- OPSBA Executive meets with members of ITC who provide detailed feedback on EDI audit recommendations 19-23 regarding the formalization of ITC in OPSBA constitution and executive representation.
- The Board of Directors also heard a keynote on the Right to Read Inquiry and OHRC Report from Patricia DeGuire, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC).
- OPSBA Executive endorsed and Board of Directors approved the EDI Audit recommendations regarding the Indigenous Trustees’ Council and the establishment of a Black Trustees’ Caucus, as well as, dedicated orientation and annual professional learning on diversity, inclusion, systemic racism, and all forms of oppression for all Board of Directors.
- OPSBA partners with Wilfrid Laurier University, Master of Applied Politics Program, on student candidate research project on data for equity best practices and policy and tool development.
- Part 1 of two half day, in-person EDI professional development for all OPSBA staff.
- “I ❤️ Public Education!” student video challenge launched during education week, to engage students in showcasing the diversity of voices in public schools across the province
Additional Resources for School Boards
Equity and Inclusive Education in Ontario Schools – Guidelines for Policy Development and Implementation