Why critical race theory is vital

The Hamilton Spectator

Cole Gately The Hamilton Spectator Fri., Sept. 9, 2022

To those who misunderstand the need for critical race theory, learning about and understanding the legacy of racism in Canada and the world is critical to our collective future.

Without doubt systemic racism functions in Canada. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report on Canada’s residential schools system, and the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls demonstrate this fact. The Indian Act is one of the most racist pieces of legislation in the world. In 2021, the Canadian Ombuds Office reports, Indigenous women comprised half of the female federal prison population, while 32 per cent of the federal prison population is Indigenous despite making up only 5 per cent of the general population. Even though Black Canadians comprise only 3.5 per cent of Canada’s population, 7.2 per cent of the federal prison population is composed of Black people.

I would like to believe that readers of the news have enough of an inquiring mind to view these facts as an embedded problem inextricably connected to colonialism, intergenerational trauma, ongoing racism, misogyny, and the multiple documented failures of the Canadian justice system, the education system, among others.

I am pretty sure no one taught most readers about the abuses perpetrated by the Canadian government and the Church against innocent children in Canada’s name. I’d also bet that most people don’t know that the architects of South African Apartheid studied the Canadian reserve and residential schools system before exporting their learnings to South Africa. (Remember the worldwide boycott of Canada in the 1980s along with South African Apartheid? No? Me neither.) We are not taught this stuff and that’s a failure of our education system.

There are similar systemic issues in health care: take the racism perpetrated by health care providers against Indigenous woman, Joyce Echaquan as she lay dying in a Quebec hospital; and the recent horrific assault of an Indigenous man by a Hamilton police officer. Our own Lyndon George, Executive Director of Hamilton Anti-Racism Resource Centre experienced racism in our local health care system.

Muslim Canadians and Hamiltonians have had to endure Islamophobic racism directed at their communities for years because of embedded stereotypes about religion, race, ethnicity, and gender. Just last year a Muslim family in London, Ont. was targeted and killed because of Islamophobia, and a local Muslim family was tormented, harassed, and threatened while out shopping in Ancaster.

To my knowledge, McMaster University has only ever had one female president, and never a president of colour. Mohawk College, despite its name, has never had an Indigenous president. Only in 2021 did Canada appoint an Indigenous Governor General. A well-known study from University of Toronto proved what so many of us already knew – that employers respond more favourably to people with European-sounding names. Neither of our hospital systems have been headed by a person of colour.

There are countless stereotypes perpetuated by our education system, our criminal justice system, our health care system, and I for one believe our only hope is that the adults of today and tomorrow know and recognize the legacy of racism.

For all these reasons and more, we need critical race theory. It is essential to preventing, curbing, and standing up to the racism that is embedded in our society’s institutions.

Resist being influenced by the divisive and false rhetoric of misguided, misinformed, and self-serving politicians and commentators. Go with your gut and ask yourself, ‘Can this possibly be true, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary?’ Teaching our children the realities of the world instead of the skewed and sanitized version of history many Canadians learned growing up, is going to build resilient, caring communities. Racialized children already know the harsh realities of living in a society that refuses to acknowledge its history. It is time for those who have benefited from not being taught this legacy to remove the blinders, face reality and use the privilege and power that come with not ever having to endure racism, to end it.

Resouce Categories