We know that there has been much media attention lately around the Coronavirus. Unfortunately, some of this attention has led to misinformation and fear among students. A message from the Ontario Ministry of Health is attached which reiterates that the risk to Canadians from this virus is low.
Some of this misinformation among students has also led to generalizations and comments directed at or about people of Chinese background or Chinese culture that are inaccurate and untrue. As our Director Louise Sirisko states in her message to families:
As a school board we pride ourselves on our diversity, and we continue to see this a source of great strength. In York Region, our East Asian Chinese community is diverse with origins that are not limited to mainland China. We have East Asian Chinese with origins in Canada, the Caribbean, Africa, Australia, and many other countries throughout the world.
While the virus can be traced to a province in China, we have to be cautious that this not be seen as a Chinese virus. Those who are afflicted or are potential transmitters are not just people of Chinese origin. The virus has appeared in many countries, such as the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and Canada. At times such as this, we must come together as Canadians and avoid any hint of xenophobia, which in this case can victimize our East Asian Chinese community and we must rely on our shared values of equity and inclusivity.
We are aware of an escalated level of concern and anxiety among families of Chinese heritage. Situations such as these can regrettably give rise to discrimination based on perceptions, stereotypes and hate. Individuals who make assumptions, even with positive intentions of safety, about the risk of others, request or demand quarantine can be seen as demonstrating bias and racism.
York Region District School Board works to ensure our classrooms and workplaces are safe and caring for all students and staff. It’s important that we not make assumptions about students or staff based on their race or travel history.
Please reiterate this in your conversations with your children at home, particularly if they are asking questions about the virus and what they are hearing about in the media or at school.
Please see attached a memo from Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health: