The AECEO board acknowledges the collective pain, horror and devastation our community is feeling as we witness the ongoing and worsening Israeli-Palestinian conflict that began on October 7th, 2023. The Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians and the subsequent and ongoing war waged against innocent Palestinians has shaken us, our members, supporters and community.
We recognize that educators, community members, families, and staff are experiencing a shared trauma with the news, images, videos, and commentary highlighting the ongoing conflict. We know that while it may seem far away to some, the losses and humanitarian crisis is happening at home for many. There have been thousands of innocent lives lost in this tragedy, and we know this directly impacts the communities we work with every day as educators.
As an organization representing a diverse ECE community, we condemn the Hamas attacks on innocent civilians, while also confronting the ongoing and systemic violence against Palestinian civilians. Palestinian and Israeli children should not be harmed or used as pawns of war.
Both communities deserve to live in a safe world, without violence.
The AECEO works to be anti-racist and anti-oppressive, and works to honour the diverse communities it serves, which directly relates to these political matters which have and continue to have an effect on children, families, educators, and community members.
ECEs are leaders in caring for others and we need to nurture supportive spaces that allow for recovery for all of our community and ourselves. We know in the early learning and child care community that Palestinians, Muslims, Israeli and Jewish people work, learn, and play together in safe and caring ways, and we see them coming together to call for an end to the violence. We also understand that members of these communities also face ongoing Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism, and those instances escalate in times of conflict. We stand against Islamophobia and Anti-Semitism.
At this time of terrible pain and worry for so many, we believe it is more important than ever that ECEs, child care workers, families and children support each other and continue to create spaces of belonging and well-being. We know that ECEs are working in communities with so many children, families, and colleagues who are impacted directly by this conflict. We encourage ECEs to engage in critical work that helps to understand the impacts of systems of oppression, racism and colonialism on the early learning and child care system in Ontario. But we know that these systems exist beyond our context and deeply impact our community members and children and families across the globe. We encourage ECEs to stay informed, dig deep, and think critically about our responsibility to understand these complex systems in order to support children, families and communities in Ontario.
We believe that in standing together we raise each other up. The staff at the AECEO advocate for and support ECEs in Ontario, and they need to feel confident to do this important and necessary work authentically.
The AECEO Board recognized that they delayed the release of an AECEO statement thoughtfully and intentionally written by staff on Friday, October 13th. This decision to delay a response caused harm to AECEO staff and it is with regret that we did not better support the AECEO staff in a time when they were feeling an immense sense of urgency to respond to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and the fear and pain faced by Israelis. We recognize the AECEO staff work in a relationship of care with our community and we regret that our actions put undue pressure on them during this difficult time.
We recognize that there were barriers in preparing a statement and as a Board we will work together with our staff to create a system that is responsive to the urgency and need to support our community and our staff at times like this.
We are also thinking about the ways educators are experiencing this trauma in their settings. We think about those without access to safe and supportive workplaces, to health benefits or mental health resources, and to communities of care. We will continue to advocate for the decent working conditions that all educators deserve, and have committed to thinking about how we can better support our community in distressing and challenging times.
To close, let us take this opportunity to foster mutual respect and understanding in our communities and demonstrate through our beliefs and practice that we strive to work towards a more caring, respectful, peaceful and inclusive society. We should be sensitive and mindful of diverse perspectives and lived experiences in our personal and professional lives. At this time let us be mindful and caring in how we interact with children, families, colleagues and community members. Let us make space for listening, caring, healing as we engage with each other and focus on our shared humanity.
We know that our community participates in advocacy and change in the ways they are able to, whether that be sharing an article with a colleague, donating to humanitarian aid, sending letters to elected officials, or showing up at rallies. We would like to share some resources, information sources, and opportunities for taking direct action to call for an end to the violence and humanitarian crisis.
Amnesty International - International News
Oxfam Canada - Canadian Organization facilitating humanitarian aid
Aljazeera - International News
SURJ Toronto - Showing Up for Racial Justice Toronto
Woke Kindergarten - Engaging children in critical conversations
CBC Video - How to talk to children about the Israel-Hamas war
Support for mental health
Ontario.ca - Find mental health support in Ontario
Delton Glebe Counselling - sliding scale therapy welcoming people of diverse backgrounds, cultures, life experiences, faith and spirituality.
Alli Therapy - Sliding scale virtual therapy