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Mike Ramsay: Divisive DEI ideology is harming our students. It’s time to ditch it

Commentary

Late last month, the public learned that the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) through its Equity, Anti-Racism & Anti-Oppression Department issued a teaching guide claiming the Canadian education system is “colonialist” and designed to uphold the dominant white culture. The document, entitled “Facilitating Critical Conversations,” specifies that “education is a colonial structure that centres whiteness and Eurocentricity and therefore it must be actively decolonized,” and “schooling in North America is inherently designed for the benefit of the dominant culture (i.e., white, middle-upper class, male, Christian, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied, neurotypical, etc.)”. It adds that, “race matters—it is a visible and dominant identity factor determining people’s social, political, economic, and cultural experiences.”

While the school board has since temporarily removed the guide pending review after the Ontario Ministry of Education called it divisive, it is important that this thinking which has captured our school systems not be ignored. 

That this handbook was actually produced and distributed by the TDSB did not come as a shock to me, because, in my view, it is representative of what is taking place at other school boards right across Ontario. A reasonable question to ask is how all of this came about.

Having served as a trustee for 24 years, I would suggest it emerged because of the work of frontline activists who truly believe in their cause and that the system is stacked against racialized students. However, many others in leadership positions, who have other motives, simply see this as an opportunity to enrich themselves. They did this by pretending to address the activists’ perception of the issues.

As a Black trustee and past chair of a large school board (WRDSB), I often wondered what good could come from paying  DEI consultants upwards of $500.00 an hour to teach kids that if they are white the successes they experience are not due to personal effort. Meanwhile, racialized students are being taught that despite personal effort, their chances of success are diminished because society is racist and therefore biased against them.

The fact is that we have both white and racialized kids who are doing well academically. Conversely, we have white and racialized kids who are not doing so well. What I have found as a member of my board’s discipline committee is that the kids (from all backgrounds) who are not doing well usually have other issues that are at play, including, but not limited to significant behavioural issues that are impacting their ability to learn. However, you can’t tell this to the proponents of DEI, who have been busy organizing events to celebrate and take credit for the academic success of racialized students who I believe were, for the most part, never in danger of failing school in the first place. The credit should go to the parents and caregivers who worked and continue to work hard to encourage and support their children.

Thankfully, with the passing of each day, more and more people are beginning to question the need for school initiatives that are fixated on identity politics. They are coming to realize that certain aspects of DEI instruction can actually lead to greater prejudice and even harm, as highlighted in a recent study released by the Aristotle Foundation and authored by Professor David Haskell. 

Haskell’s report shows that DEI related to “anti-racism” education and its promotion of “white privilege” doesn’t make participants more sympathetic to disadvantaged Black people as DEI trainers claim, and can in fact make them more hostile toward poor white people.  

As he elaborates, “Teaching students about white privilege, a core component of the DEI curriculum, does not make them feel more compassion toward poor people of colour but can reduce sympathy [and] increase blame…for White people struggling with poverty.”

In light of Haskell’s overwhelming evidence, I feel school boards should be required to justify the expense and existence of DEI in their organizations. Moreover, if it is doing harm as his research shows, do we not have an obligation to use legislation to stop the practice immediately in our classrooms?

I would say we do. And, that is why I agree wholeheartedly with parent Liz Galvin who recently told the Halton District School Board: “Trustees, when your equity and inclusion policies are used to generate administrative procedures by un-elected DEI proponents that contradict the aims and prescribed goals of said policy, then you have an obligation to insist that they be scrutinized, amended and or removed.” 

It seems straightforward, but the practice will not stop if it is left solely to the discretion of the Ontario NDP supporting majority which dominates most school boards.

This is where the Progressive Conservative government of Premier Doug Ford comes in. Even though his government has made it clear through their 2023 Better Schools and Student Outcomes Act (Bill 98) that they want boards to be dead focused on tangible measurable learning achievement,   rather than on faddish so-called “social justice” experiments, boards continue to double down on these DEI initiatives. I don’t know if the government is tiptoeing around the issue out of fear that the far-Left radicals entrenched in our education system will attack them. More and more parents and education workers from all backgrounds across our province are paying closer and closer attention to the damage being done. It is time for the Ford government to respond firmly and issue clear directives to boards to end these divisive practices.

Regan P. Watts: Pierre Poilievre’s Conservatives have found a winning message

Commentary

This week, Conservative candidate Jamil Jivani’s win in the Durham by-election portends a broader political trend that’s behind Pierre Poilievre’s broad-based appeal and the reason why he’s the favoured choice for Canada’s next prime minister

Laying out Poilevre’s own key message, Jivani spoke about how the working class is being betrayed by the Trudeau government and other major Canadian institutions, including universities and big business.

The themes of his speech—including the notion that working-class Canadians have been left behind, or worse, taken for chumps by big corporations and big government—align with a speech that Poilievre himself recently delivered to the C.D. Howe Institute in Toronto. The remarks were more than a routine address. They were a declaration of his priorities and a preview of his potential style of governance.

Poilievre began by saying bluntly that “after eight years of Trudeau, life is increasingly a living hell for the working-class people of this country.” He then drew on a devastating body of data and evidence to convey the challenges facing everyday Canadians. The facts tell a compelling story of struggle. 

Housing costs have doubled over the last decade, with rent growing from an average of about $900 to roughly $2,000 per month. The IMF says that Canada has the most dangerous mortgage debt in the entire OECD, warning that our country has the highest risk of mortgage defaults. Millions of Canadians are using food banks. These inconvertible facts are increasingly causing people to question whether the country’s economic and political systems are skewed against their interests. They are rightly angry. 

Poilievre has given them a voice. He is from and for Main Street and his appeal is clearly resonating. Don’t believe it? Take a peek at some of his visits to traditionally working-class communities like Windsor and St. John’s, where Liberals and New Democrats have dominated federal politics for decades. Ask a service worker the next time you’re buying coffee whether they feel like they are getting ahead. When Poilievre speaks, the polling shows working Canadians feel like he cares about them.

Some of the anger from Canadians toward the federal government is stemming from a sense of betrayal. Justin Trudeau’s 2015 campaign line about “being there for the middle class and those trying to join it,” was a highly effective mantra. Millions of Canadians responded positively to it. In fact, it’s a key reason why he won a majority government. 

Trudeau’s precipitous drop in public opinion polls lends weight to the betrayal hypothesis. While Poilievre’s communications and policy are key drivers of his own support, there’s the accumulating picture of an effete, out-of-touch prime minister who hasn’t lived up to his promise as a champion of the middle class. 

Poilievre’s early warnings about inflation, famously predating Bay Street and the Bank of Canada, has given him a huge advantage—namely, real credibility—on these issues with ordinary voters. He was speaking about inflation and the now-present housing crisis before business, the media, and, of course, the Trudeau government started to.

Just as important is the communications revolution powered by social media, which is enfranchising all kinds of new voters. The rise of platforms like YouTube and the end of traditional media are drawing in people who previously wouldn’t have paid attention to politics. Imagine how much larger the Diefenbaker and Mulroney majorities might have been with YouTube channels instead of only the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, and CBC dominating the media landscape. These developments have given Poilievre the ability to reach Canadians who may not have voted Conservative in the past, or who perhaps didn’t vote at all. 

But his success thus far isn’t merely about communications. He’s signaled that he plans to challenge corporate interests and bureaucratic inefficiencies head-on. His stance on increasing competition, especially in protected sectors, suggests a readiness to disrupt the status quo for greater service and affordability, and could potentially include leveraging the tax code to encourage foreign investment and competition.

It’s well known in Ottawa that the Business Council of Canada, whose members are the CEOs of Canada’s largest companies, can’t even get a meeting with Poilievre. Rather than the council’s CEOs, Poilievre has said he’ll gladly meet with the employees and workers of the companies themselves. If that’s not a wake-up call for those who run these companies, I don’t know what is.

Federal Conservative leadership candidate Pierre Poilievre greets a supporter as he holds a campaign rally in Toronto, Saturday, April 30, 2022. Chris Young/The Canadian Press.

And it’s not just corporate interests who are in the crosshairs of voters who want to see change in Ottawa. Federal agencies like Service Canada, Passport Canada, and the CRA are regularly subject to complaints by Canadians who are having trouble receiving basic government services. Voters will expect improvement in how these agencies operate and serve Canadians.

Poilievre’s style, though unorthodox for some and polarizing for the elites that his leadership threatens, underscores his connection to the electorate he works for. The people have had enough. They believe the system doesn’t work for them, they are falling further behind, and they are looking to send a wrecking ball to Ottawa to break down the obstacles to change. Poilievre may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he’s the choix du jour of millions of Canadians who are dying to send a message to Ottawa and those special interests Ottawa protects.

How would Poilievre harness this desire for change? Let’s take the example of competition reform. Maybe it’s time for increased foreign competition in protected sectors, an approach that could and should provide fodder for the next round of USMCA discussions which are slated for July 2026. 

Airlines, airports, telecoms, and banks will have to go beyond proposing the removal of gatekeepers and taxes to improve service and lower costs. The ultimate lever that any prime minister can use to force business action is through competition. Poilievre’s views on the importance of market forces driving behaviour are illustrative of how he might tackle problems that regular Canadians are facing relating to travel, cell phone bills, or their mortgage.

The carrot of increased access to the Canadian market for U.S. firms could be an opportunity for Canada to resolve some very big, long-standing issues with our American neighbours. Imagine inking a long-term deal with the White House and Congress on softwood lumber access for Canadian firms on the back of introducing U.S.-based competition in our domestic telecom sector. Governing is about trade-offs, and that hypothetical example is a trade-off that exhibits the kind of bold thinking Poilievre ought to embrace in the service of working-class Canadians. 

Whether the Conservatives can win an election is still up to the will of voters. Recent party leaders have missed scoring into an open net, so anything is possible. But should Poilievre win, he’s been very clear about who he’ll be governing for: those Main Street Canadians who have too often been forgotten and left behind.