FSWC Urges All TDSB Trustees to Reject Divisive Anti-Racism Strategy

June 19, 2024

News Release

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Screenshot of TDSB Program School and Services Committee meeting webcast (June 18, 2024)

Toronto (June 19, 2024) – Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) is calling on all Toronto District School Board (TDSB) trustees to reject a contentious new anti-racism strategy at tonight’s board meeting, following concerns raised by the Jewish community as well as others.

During a meeting yesterday evening, the TDSB Program and School Services Committee voted to accept the newly released Combating Hate and Racism: Student Learning Strategy Update 2024. The TDSB will be voting tonight on whether or not to adopt the strategy.

The strategy suffers from a number of critical deficiencies, including the lack of a comprehensive plan to deal with rising antisemitism at Toronto schools, and the lack of clarity around the inclusion of the term “Anti-Palestinian Racism” and its implications for the board.

Given some definitions of anti-Palestinian racism have been used as a cudgel to malign Jews - including falsely depicting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, which has been adopted by the governments of Canada, Ontario and a number of other provinces, of being an example of anti-Palestinian racism - there is reason for concern over the TDSB incorporating this term without clearly defining it.

FSWC has been in communication with board members in recent days, outlining how the strategy falls short, including in addressing rapidly rising antisemitism.

“It was concerning to see such a flawed and divisive strategy pass at last night’s Program and School Services Committee meeting despite the many issues raised by the Jewish community and calls from both the TDSB Director of Education Colleen Russell-Rawlins and Board Chair Rachel Chernos Lin to send it back to TDSB staff to correct the deficiencies,” said FSWC President and CEO Michael Levitt. “The strategy’s lack of urgency in dealing with rampant antisemitism that has engulfed TDSB schools is a shocking omission.”

At yesterday’s TDSB committee meeting, Russell-Rawlins called on trustees to “refer the strategy back to staff for re-envisioning in a manner that is consistent with the belonging pillar of the multi-year strategic plan and to affirm and respect our students’ identities.”

Chernos Lin spoke on how the strategy failed to acknowledge the rise of antisemitism. “The fact that this report came on its own without that correlation about the rise in antisemitism, the addition of anti-Palestinian racism without explanation of what that was, and what staff were thinking, I think has caused a lot of concern, fear, questions,” she said.

FSWC commends Trustee Alexandra Lulka Rotman for delivering powerful remarks during last night’s session.

“Every TDSB trustee has an opportunity this evening to remedy the error made yesterday and reject the adoption of this problematic strategy, sending it back to staff to be reworked and improved,” said Levitt. “We expect the TDSB to put forward a more comprehensive strategy to effectively tackle antisemitism and all forms of racism and discrimination, which have been plaguing our schools. Our students deserve better.”