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Sask. teacher says province needs BIPOC teachers association to better support teachers and students of color

Sask. teacher says province needs BIPOC teachers association to better support teachers and students of color
Sask. teacher says province needs BIPOC teachers association to better support teachers and students of color

Helen Vangool, a teacher from Saskatoon, sees the interest in a BIPOC teachers association in Saskatchewan. (Submitted by Helen Vangool – photo credit)

Helen Vangool says it is becoming increasingly common for teachers, parents and students to tell her about experiences of racism they have had at school. This is worrying.

The Saskatoon teacher says there’s a lack of concrete action on anti-racism education and a lack of support for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Colour) students and teachers. She’s become frustrated.

“There’s no support group for us, no people to talk to about what’s going on or anything like that,” she said.

To provide that support and lobby for effective anti-racism education, Vangool said the province needs a BIPOC teachers association.

“One voice won’t be heard as much (unless) more of us stand together for this work and why it’s important for it to be taught in schools,” she said.

She said the group would be similar to the Black Teachers Association of Alberta (BTA), which had 50 members in January.

BTA started with an Instagram account, where they shared resources and answered questions from the public.

“How do I talk to my five-year-old son about race, and how do I talk to my high school senior who’s about to graduate about what it’s like to live in the real world as a black woman?” are examples of questions, co-founder Sarah Adomako-Ansah told CBC News in January.

According to Adomako-Ansah, the association has already received inquiries from teachers in other provinces, such as British Columbia, Ontario and Saskatchewan, about sharing resources and collaboration.

However, Vangool said the association in Saskatchewan would be expanded to include other people of colour due to the shortage of Black teachers in the province.

“I think it makes more sense if we talk to each other as a group about how we can support each other and how departments can support their teachers of color and students of color,” she said.

“I think a lot of us feel more empowered now, like we have a voice. Now is the time to start talking, because people are paying more attention now.”

Vangool said the association would also provide support to teaching assistants and students’ families.

“It’s really traumatic for us to see and hear about someone else being murdered or attacked because of the color of their skin and then to come to school or work the next day and no one says anything about it, and we pretend like nothing happened,” she said.

“It’s kind of a dehumanizing and suffocating experience.”

Vangool is currently investigating how much interest there is among other BIPOC teachers in the province to set up an association.

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 that Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

(CBC channel)