SASKATOON -- The Saskatoon Teachers’ Association hopes to be a force for change in how anti-racism education is approached in schools.

The association's president John McGettigan says students in the city and the province are at the forefront of teaching and learning about anti-racism and Canadian citizenship which he says is vital.

A program developed in Saskatoon called Concentus was created by teachers in conjunction with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission and has gained momentum since being developed 7 years ago.

It’s now in all schools in Saskatoon and some in Regina and the rural areas but is being adopted quickly in kindergarten through grade 12 classrooms.

The program focuses on a new set of three R’s: rights, responsibility, respect.

McGettigan says it’s important to teach students what it means to be a Canadian citizen through learning about each other and get that message to all corners of the province.

“Racism is quite pervasive or a scourge in this province. I don’t like to say this, but Saskatchewan has a problem with racism. Research shows that Saskatchewan ranks really high when it comes to being racist,” McGettigan told CTV News.

He points to a racist verbal attack at Mai’s Kitchen in early February which was caught on video as an example of how change is needed as well as this week’s report about how the Colton Boushie case was handled according to race.

McGettigan's comment also come days after a report by the RCMP's watchdog that said Saskatchewan Mounties had discriminated against Colten Boushie's family.

Also signs that included the address of a white supremacist website were recently seen  in North Battleford.

The Concentus program takes current events like those that have happened in Saskatchewan or others worldwide like the Black Lives Matter movement and adds them to the constantly changing curriculum.

The program teaches students to think and discuss racism which can be uncomfortable according to Kelsi Bartake, a high school indigenous studies teacher in Saskatoon.

She says it’s critical t to start anti-racism teaching in schools because of the wide range of cultural backgrounds here including Indigenous students and new Canadians.

She says creating an open dialogue in the classroom is essential but not always easy.

“I work with kids to get them to think with an anti-racist lens and sometimes that’s uncomfortable and people get uncomfortable talking about it. You need to put yourself in that uncomfortable position to open up and think and make a change,” Bartake told CTV News.

Bartake has been teaching for 8 years and says it’s rewarding to see when students have a belief they thought was correct, but learn it is rooted in racist thinking or based on a stereotype.

“A lot of times people look at anti-racism and think that as long as I’m not racist then I’m being anti-racist, but that’s not quite the same thing, you have to teach about racism and how to be anti-racist,” she says.

As a teacher who grew up in Saskatoon, Bartake says she has seen changes in thinking about racism since she was a student.

She admits racism isn’t going to go away but is hopeful the province is moving in the right direction by educating students and arming them with the tools they need to move into adulthood as informed critically thinking Canadian citizens.