Initiative addresses anti-Black racism in Ontario schools

The Black Legal Action Centre partners with Ontario's Student and Family Advocates
Moya Teklu, executive director and general counsel at the Black Legal Action Centre

By Lucy Saddleton

05 Sep 2022

The Black Legal Action Centre is partnering with Ontario’s 17 Black-led Student and Family Advocate Programs –  community-based programs designed to support Black families and students as they engage with the education system. The partnership is intended to support and empower Black children in schools across Ontario.

BLAC has received $50,000 in funding through Parents of Black Children, the lead organization for the SFA’s Community of Practice, and has committed to using $50,000 of BLAC’s own donations to provide enhanced legal representation in the area of human rights and education law.

This initiative will enhance BLAC’s existing programs and services in education law and will allow BLAC to support more families seeking legal support in navigating anti-Black racism in the education system, regardless of their income. Funding was provided through the Ontario Black Youth Action Plan. 

“Because BLAC receives most of its funding from Legal Aid Ontario, we can generally only represent people who make below a certain income. The problem is that families that make $40,000 or $50,000 a year make too much to qualify for legal aid but not enough to pay a lawyer,” said Moya Teklu, executive director and general counsel at the Black Legal Action Centre. “We know that socio-economic status does not protect you from anti-Black racism, and this initiative and the expanded services that we’re now going to be able to deliver, reflect that reality.”

Nonye Okenwa is the new lawyer hired through this initiative. She joins BLAC staff lawyer Piera Savage, in providing legal services for Black families seeking assistance with issues in the education system such as challenging or negotiating Individual Education Plans, appealing suspensions or expulsions, and bullying or harassment.

The 17 SFAs which have partnered with BLAC on this initiative represent and support Black families across Ontario by providing free wraparound services to students and families experiencing anti-Black racism in schools including advocacy support, case management and systems navigation.

“This partnership with the Black Legal Action Centre is a game changer in helping families take legal action when their children are experiencing anti-Black racism,” said Kearie Daniel, co-founder and executive director of Parents of Black Children. “Advocacy support is available for parents across the province, but this legal support levels the playing field by making a legal route for justice available to all Black parents.”

Source: Canadian Lawyer