School-based equity and inclusion initiatives

20 May 2022

Living in Hawkesbury gives you access to quality French education for your children. There are four French-language schools in the city—two elementary and two high schools—that are sure to meet your family’s needs. These schools are operated by two different school boards: the Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario (CEPEO) and the Conseil scolaire de district catholique de l’Est ontarien (CSDCEO). Regardless of the school you choose, both of these school boards are under the responsibility of the Ontario Ministry of Education and meet the same government requirements.

Before we look at what is being done in the province and within our school boards, here are two fairly important definitions to help you thoroughly understand this blog post.

Equity: Denotes fairness and justice in process and in results. 3 Something that is equitable. 1 Inclusion: The fact of including somebody/something; the fact of being included. 2 The fact or policy of providing equal opportunities and resources for people who might otherwise not get them, for example people who are disabled or belong to minority groups. 2

Source: 1Merriam-Webster dictionary, 2Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries, 3Ontario Health’s Equity, Inclusion, Diversity and Anti-Racism Framework

At the provincial level

For the last eight years, our schools’ diversity policies have been guided by the Equity and Inclusive Education in Ontario Schools: Guidelines for Policy Development and Implementation.

Currently, the primary goals of the Ontario government are to achieve excellence, ensure equity, promote well-being and enhance public confidence. These goals are reviewed every 10 years to ensure that schools across the province are continually evolving and improving. It is noted that “the goal of equity and inclusive education is to understand, identify, address and eliminate the biases, barriers and power dynamics that restrict student’s learning, growth and full contribution to society. Barriers may be based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, physical or intellectual ability or any other factors. It should also be noted that several factors can overlap and create additional barriers for some students. These barriers and biases, whether overt or subtle, intentional or unintentional, must be identified and addressed.” In Ontario and the rest of Canada, diversity is our greatest asset!

How does this policy help our schools?

The introduction of this policy means that schools must work harder on the priorities that have been identified. It starts with leaders at the Ministry, school boards and schools themselves focusing on eliminating discrimination. To do this, schools need to be able to clearly identify situations where barriers or biases exist and know how to eliminate them. Equity is a collective responsibility; achieving an equitable and inclusive education system requires a commitment from all education partners.

These policies also support the creation of positive learning environments so that all students feel engaged in and empowered by what they are learning. This is also a way to ensure collaboration within the school community. There is no question that students learn more and that staff members work better in an environment that is caring, safe, inclusive and tolerant for all, without discrimination or special favours.

And finally, the transparency and accountability that come with this policy play a large role in achieving an equitable environment. The Ontario government believes that holding school boards and schools accountable is a necessary measure to give families more confidence in the education system. The principles of equity and inclusive education must therefore be an integral part of strategic plans, the process for assessing effectiveness, plans in support of effectiveness, and of course practices in the classroom. To understand exactly how this policy is reflected in our schools, please see the Guidelines for Policy Development and Implementation.

Are any additional efforts being made by the boards in the region?

Yes. The public and Catholic school boards both have distinct initiatives to supplement this policy. It is important to note that the boards have many initiatives in place that are not covered in this article. We have only highlighted a few examples of what makes them stand out. If you want more information about all the initiatives in place at your school, please contact them directly.

Conseil des écoles publiques de l’est de l’Ontario (CEPEO)

Hawkesbury is home to École élémentaire publique Nouvel Horizon and École secondaire publique Le Sommet, both of which are administered by the CEPEO.

Diversity and inclusion are values that have been adopted and are held in high esteem at the CEPEO. That is why they take pride in being the first French-language school board in Ontario to have a section made up of specialists who are entirely dedicated to the well-being and safety of students. Every year, the board invests nearly $19 million to help students with special needs succeed in school. It also maintains partnerships with a dozen or so community organizations that contribute to the well-being and mental health of students and their families.

For the past several years, CEPEO has organized the “Branché sur le positif” tour. This tour offers school-based activities that promote well-being and mental health to students, teachers and parents.

The CEPEO has also implemented a comprehensive plan (in French) for programs and services specifically designed for students with special needs. Through this plan you will learn how the board seeks to ensure the inclusion of all its students.

Conseil scolaire de district catholique de l’Est ontarien (CSDCEO)

Two CSDCEO schools are located in Hawkesbury: École élémentaire catholique Paul VI and École secondaire catholique régionale de Hawkesbury.

École élémentaire catholique Paul VI is known for its excellence in serving students with learning disabilities and specialized needs (IVS\IVCT). The school features classrooms that accommodate a number of special needs. It also prides itself on having qualified special education teachers on its team.

The CSDCEO also recognizes the importance and richness of Indigenous culture and promotes an equitable and inclusive education for all students. It has therefore established an Indigenous education committee to discuss priorities, initiatives and issues related to Indigenous education in its schools. To ensure that the needs of students of Indigenous ancestry are met, the committee provides input to the board on the development and implementation of its Indigenous education action plan. This plan is divided into four priority areas: supporting students, supporting school staff members, increasing engagement and awareness, and using data to support student performance. The CSDCEO offers its Indigenous students and their parents or guardians the opportunity to identify with their First Nation, Métis or Inuit heritage. Self-identification allows them to stand up and honour their cultural legacy, benefit from programs rooted in Indigenous traditions and culture, access services and support available to First Nation, Métis and Inuit people, contribute to cultural competency training and connect with other Indigenous individuals. Self‑identification also helps ensure that services will be available in schools and in communities.

To learn more about education in the Hawkesbury area, please visit the Education page on our website.

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