The tension, unrest and even violence in parts of the United States these days is top of mind for many if not most Canadians. I know that the members of our CFIS community are very aware of and concerned about it. Although mainstream news stations are largely focusing on the events in the U.S. these days, as Canadians, we are unfortunately not immune to problems in our own cities and towns.
I am always equally saddened and horrified by acts of racism and hatred. One of the reasons why I was so eager to become a part of the CFIS community nearly nine years ago was its local reputation as an institution that values cultural diversity and teaches international perspectives. This was a natural fit for me, with my love of learning about other countries through their languages. For nearly two decades now, CFIS has been purposefully promoting the values of inclusion and cultural peace and understanding, starting with our youngest students. This is done on an overarching scale, through our UNESCO affiliation, our Round Square participation, our International Baccalaureate teachings, and on a daily basis in many other small ways. It is also evident in our school’s values – at CFIS, we specifically value openness, inquisitiveness and understanding of our community and the world beyond our experience; a global focus, cultural diversity, and international perspectives; ethical, responsible citizenship; and mutual respect. Those words are taken directly from our school’s list of values, which are as important today, and indeed perhaps more so, as they were when they were written nearly a decade ago.
CFIS has also had a long-standing mutual respect policy. I am proud to say that the development of that document was one of my first undertakings with the CFIS Society’s Policy Committee, shortly after becoming Head of School in 2012. In 2018, Alberta Education mandated that all schools have a “welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment” policy. Our mutual respect policy required minimal wordsmithing to ensure its compliance with Alberta Education’s requirements. In other words, we were “already there.”
The words of our original mutual respect policy still ring true:
“CFIS recognizes that to achieve its mission, it must provide and foster a safe and respectful learning and teaching environment for all members of the CFIS community. This environment is one where all students, employees, parents, visitors and Board members are committed to treat all others with mutual respect, dignity, and equity, free from fear of harassment or discrimination, and expect to be treated in the same manner.”
This can be briefly summarized thusly: CFIS does not and will not tolerate discrimination or racism, and actively promotes a safe, welcoming atmosphere of mutual respect amongst all members of the CFIS community.
No group of human beings is perfect and without fault, but we can all do our best to bear in mind at all times the need to treat everyone equitably, with dignity and respect. At a grassroots level, the unrest and tension of other parts of the world can and should remind each of us of the importance of this – one student, or one adult, at a time.