Toronto School Board Delivers on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy

Posted by admin on May 16th, 2007

TDSB Finally Delivers on its Promise of a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy in Toronto Schools

Click here to watch the Sanctuary School Victory Video

Toronto Wednesday May, 16 – in a unanimous vote, Toronto District School Board trustees stood up to in front of a board room packed with community supporters brandishing neon Access to Education without Fear stickers, to show their continual support for a Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy at Toronto schools. Although the promise of this sanctuary schools was made to community members a year ago in a similar meeting with a motion passed last May by the board, it has taken a year before the principle of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has finally become a concrete policy ready for implementation.

Prior to the meeting, despite the rain, an animated rally of over 40 people was held outside of 5050 Yonge, the headquarters of the TDSB to demand the implementation of the long-awaited policy. Supporters including students, members of heath centres, community agencies, legal advocates, youth groups, parents, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Canadian Auto Workers, as well as effected community members rallied to show their continued support for sanctuary schools.

Albert Koehl from the Education Rights Task Force, one of the advocacy groups fighting for similar policies for the past eight years, highlighted the importance of this victory and the tremendous efforts mounted by the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell campaign.

Kelly O’Sullivan from CUPE spoke about the importance of partnerships between trade unions and community groups on such initiatives; she stated “access to services is fundamentally a workers issue.”

Graduate student at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education and U.S. immigration advocate Francisco Villegas highlighted the fact that similar DADT policies have already been won through community mobilizations in several US jurisdictions.

Sima Zerehi from No One is Illegal and Judith Rae from the Immigration Legal Committee spoke about the need to continue community mobilizations beyond the vote in order to ensure that the policy passed is also actively implemented and communicated to all TDSB staff, administrators, students, partner agencies and communities. Zerehi made links between similar paper policies at the Toronto Catholic School board which are scarcely known and have yet to be fully implemented.

Grade 10 student, Anika Ashraf, one of the most passionate voices amongst the group spoke eloquently about the outrage she felt upon hearing stories of fellow students Kimberly and Gerald Lizano-Sossa who were brutally targeted by immigration enforcement while in school. She spoke about the need to move forward quickly on the implementation of the policy in order to prevent such future incidents.

Suhkdeep and Janice from Regent Park Community Health Centre’s Pathways to Education program discussed the needs of student learners to access education services in a manner that does not cause them to stress about the risks of being detained and deported for going to school.

Members of the DADT campaign will continue to advocate on the policy in preparation for the September 2007 school at an up communing community forum on Saturday May 26 held at the Bickford Centre, one of the schools advocating for sanctuary schools.

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