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B.C. partners with Lions football team to tackle racism in schools

Past players to take part in classroom sessions next year
B.C. Lions vice-president George Chayka and Orange Shirt Day founder Phyllis Webstad speak before a Lions home game featuring an orange team shirt giveaway, Sept. 16, 2021. (B.C. government photo)

The B.C. education ministry is co-sponsoring a series of anti-racism workshops with B.C. Lions football players to run in schools from February to May 2022.

The province is providing $115,000 for a series of workshops that B.C. Lions vice-president George Chayka says will be billed as Team Up to End Racism. The team will promote the message through its B.C. Place stadium games and broadcasts, as well as its own website, social media and the school workshops.

“This program is a result of our staff, players and fans who have expressed their desire and wanting to help, because they know it exists here in British Columbia,” Chayka said at a news conference at the stadium Nov. 12. “Every child in society has a right to feel welcome in school, and the opportunity for our players to deliver a message of respect, diversity and inclusion to students around the province is one that we embrace.”

Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside said the partnership with the B.C. Lions is for three years, and workshops will be presented for students in grades six to 10. The program will be added to curriculum that already includes historic lessons including the legacy of residential schools for Indigenous children, the internment of Japanese people during World War II and the refusal to allow a ship called the Komagata Maru carrying people from British India to land at Vancouver in 1914.

Appearing at Friday’s announcement before the game between the Lions and the Calgary Stampeders were former Lions players Jamie Taras, Geroy Simon and Sean Millington, among the ambassadors for the team program.

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The ministry has expanded its Expect Respect and a Safe Education (Erase) strategy, developed to work against bullying, to include resources and information for students and parents. Training has also been included in the strategy for school districts to specifically address racism in schools. The minister’s youth dialogue series will soon be established with anti-racism as its first topic of focus.


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