Tristin Hopper, National Post, November 4, 2022
Canada’s largest school board is set to launch a race-based student census with the explicit goal of rooting out what it calls the “white supremacist” and “colonialist” structures undergirding the Toronto school system.
“The Census teams will work to actively highlight the nuances of how systems and structures of power create hierarchies that privilege some and oppress others,” reads a set of research guidelines published by the Toronto District School Board.
Starting this month, 247,000 students in the Toronto District School Board were scheduled to be asked to complete a questionnaire that will include queries about their race, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, the educational status of their parents and their mental health.
The TDSB has collected “identity-based” data in student censuses before, and has used the information to identify select racial and ethnic groups that are falling behind.
But this is the first one where census-takers have openly expressed an aim to use the data to “dismantle all forms of colonial and settler colonial violence.”
“Historically, data collection and evidence have been abused, misused and exploited in ways that harmed communities,” reads the official census guidelines, before adding that this time around, they’ll be explicitly using census data to “disrupt all structures of oppression” and centre “Indigeneity and Black lives” in the school system.
The 40-page package was drafted by Aakriti Kapoor, Stefanie De Jesus and Amie Presley, all three of which are employed as full-time research coordinators at the TDSB.
“Research will work to create decolonial futures to reverse the harms created by ongoing realities of colonialism and systemic racism,” they write.
The researchers note that they are active adherents of “critical race theory,” the notion that racism is an “ingrained aspect of society” that can only be countered by race-centric policy that explicitly favours “historically marginalized voices.” An attached glossary says that the traditional Canadian belief in “colour-blind” and “multicultural” policy is itself an upholder of white supremacy. The glossary also says that racism is not “simple prejudice,” and can only exist when one group has “power” over another — ergo, that racism against “privileged” groups doesn’t exist.
“There are multiple interlocking, and intersectional oppressions present in our schools, but race becomes the axis on which multiple oppressions are engaged,” the document says.
The researchers add that they won’t merely use the census data to “highlight structures of oppression and pain,” but will work from “joy-centred frames” to create “alternative futures rooted in community joy and excellence.”
At times, the document avoids the words “Canada” or “Toronto,” preferring instead the term the “Land the Board is situated upon.”