LONDON, ONT. -- High school students are being offered a chance to learn about anti-Black racism, and how it has played a role in shaping modern Canada.

A new trial course being offered this summer with the Thames Valley District School Board aims to produce future leaders who will learn how race has played a role in Canadian history.

The course capitalizes on the Black Lives Matter movement and the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis Minnesota one year ago.

“When it comes to making progress with anti-Black racism sometimes it feels like we take ten steps forward and then we take 25 steps backwards,” said Liz Akano, a high school vice principal in London who is heading up the course.

The course is called ‘Deconstructing Anti-Black Racism in the Canadian and North American Context.’ Already offered in some Toronto high schools, the course teaches students about Black history in Canada, and what’s led to the current climate of race relations. Akano said she wants students to be able to see themselves represented in the curriculum.

“To look at the history of Black Canadians who have made a tremendous contribution to the growth of our country, and the impact they have made in that growth, so students will be able to see themselves in that.”

Educators and academics across southwestern Ontario are watching the pilot closely. At the University of Windsor, anti-racism activist Dr. Richard Douglass-Chin said a course such as this is long overdue.

“The reason we haven’t seen it before is because, I think we’ve been operating on a paradigm that’s been based largely on whiteness, and a neo-liberal model of what Canada is, and that hasn’t really incorporated the whole history of what Canada is. And some of it’s not that great.”

Equally as important as who takes the course is who teaches it, said Camisha Sibblis, with the Univeristy of Windsor’s School of Social Work.

“We need to have teachers who are trained and well educated in the area of anti-Black racism, and really critical race theory, in how anti-Black racism is weaved into all of our social institutions.”

The hope is that the course becomes more than just a one time offering, and if successful, becomes permanent. Akano said she would like to see if offered by other school boards as well.

“We definitely need to put as many students as possible in front of this course so that we can create leaders in the community, leaders who will then take the baton and move it forward.”

Thirty-five students from grades 11 and 12 will be accepted into the course, which runs through the month of July.