OTTAWA -- A petition calling on the University of Ottawa and Carleton University to teach anti-racism courses is gaining traction.

Khadija El Hilali is one of three Ottawa students behind the movement.

She wants both schools to develop the mandatory course and make it a requirement to graduate.

The group wants the course to be taught to first or second year students.

“It’s unfair to ignore this issue and pretend that it doesn’t exist [except] when it’s trending on the news. It’s something BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) students deal with every day,” she said.

The recently-launched petition has garnered more than 8800 signatures. The goal is 10, 000. 

“I’m signing because it is a privilege to learn about racism instead of experiencing it,” one person wrote.

The outpouring of support exceeded the 22-year-old’s expectations.

“Very confused, but also very happy because I saw there was a need for it.”

As a woman, Muslim, and person of colour, El Hilali said she has experienced her share of discrimination.

After launching the petition, she noticed hateful comments on her social media. She had to temporarily close her comment section as a result.

“This is exactly why this is needed,” she said.

However, the positive comments have outweighed the negative.

“I would say that’s one per cent, 99 per cent is overwhelming support.”

As a minority, El Hilali said it’s not the responsibility of marginalized groups to educate their peers.

The organizers believe it is the responsibility of the school system.

CTV News contacted both universities to see if they were aware of the petition.

“Carleton University denounces anti-Black racism and racism is all its forms,” said Steven Reid, a spokesperson for the school, in an e-mailed statement.

“Currently, a training certificate with a concentration in equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is offered to all faculty and staff. We also plan to include EDI modules and learning outcomes for students in our units and departments over the coming year, just as we have offered new learning opportunities about Indigenous history and culture.”

The University of Ottawa has not yet provided comment.

Before the group officially presents the petition to the schools, they want to get more support from students and staff. 

They are also collecting data on students’ experiences with racism.

You can find more information here.