The Vancouver School Board got an earful Wednesday night from anti-racism advocates frustrated by a lack of action on a promised review of the role of the Vancouver Police Department and RCMP in the city's schools.
In June, the board approved a motion to review the school liaison officer program in consultation with First Nations community members, students, parents and Black community groups, including Black Lives Matter.
Months later, officers remain a presence in district schools and that review has yet to begin.
On Oct. 14, trustees met virtually at a VSB committee meeting to talk about how to reissue a request for proposals to find someone to do the program review. They were also met with criticism by eight registered speakers who shared their upset that the program continues to exist, let alone that a review of it remains pending.
Ruby Diaz, who has facilitated workshops on Black history with VSB teachers, was among those who condemned the board, saying it had failed to address an issue that perpetuates anti-Black racism and compromises the safety of Black and Indigenous youth.
"I'm deeply disappointed that I have to be here in this capacity today shaming the Vancouver School Board," said Diaz.
According to VSB trustee Jennifer Reddy, the board is planning to have a review done by mid-December and the school liaisons will remain in place until then. She said over 2,500 people have signed a petition to have the program scrapped altogether.
"This is one of those moments where we need to respond and transparently because there are lives at stake," said Reddy Thursday on The Early Edition."
Emily Johnson, a representative of Black Lives Matter, told the board Wednesday there needs to be an investment in resources that support and protect all students.
She said the overrepresentation of Black and Indigenous people during street checks, and the elevated risk they face of being killed by police, prove it is reckless, violent and ignorant to keep cops in schools.
"The presence of police in our schools only serves to exacerbate the school-to-prison pipeline," said Johnson.
Reddy said the program began in the 1970s and one of the reasons behind its creation was because some trustees worried that incorporating racialized students into area schools would increase juvenile delinquency.
"It comes from some really deep-seeded distrust and goals of assimilation and that needs to be surfaced to have a real conversation," said Reddy. "What we're seeing is symptoms of a system that was built on this idea of assimilation and nation-building."
Trustee requesting extension
According to Reddy, the board has also heard testimonial from individuals who consider the program to be a positive thing.
While she said the board needs to respond to people's calls for action in a swift way, she is hoping to extend the deadline for a review beyond December, something she says is needed to allow more people the time to participate.
Reddy said she also wants the review to be conducted in a way that ensures participant's privacy.
"One thing I'll be looking for is to ensure that the review process is very clear about how the privacy and confidentiality of children and youth will be fulfilled," said the trustee, who was elected in 2018.
Reddy will be asking for an extension for the review at a VSB meeting later this month.
To hear the complete interview with Jennifer Reddy on The Early Edition, tap here.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.