5 Things We’re Still Thinking About After “Thinking Through Racism: Issues and Blind Spots in Quebec”

By Sabrina McFadden

Last weekend, I attended “Thinking Through Racism Today: Issues and Blind Spots in the Current Quebec Context”, an event hosted as part of the Week of Actions Against Racism. The event was incredibly informative, with all the presenters bringing an in-depth, thoroughly researched and historically informed understanding to the table, and it was inspiring to see so much space given to leaders from racialized communities to speak to their own efforts and struggles. Needless to say, it was also an extremely necessary event, in a context where there is widespread denial about the problem of racism in Quebec.

There were 5 things that I have been thinking about since and wanted to share!

  1. There is little or no education in schools, or investment in general, or any leadership at all by governments in Quebec to combat racism today. This is in stark contrast to other provinces—for instance, Ontario is starting a Directorate of anti-racism. Maryse Potvin (Professor in Education at UQAM) spoke eloquently about this complete lack of actual material support for addressing racism in the province.
  2. In a discussion of how neoliberalism affects racism in Quebec, one of the clearest examples was about how logics of neoliberalism and “meritocracy” have been recently applied to Quebec immigration policy so that immigrants are chosen according to their earning power and economic status over any other determining factor—and the process itself, including application fees and process, effectively shuts out most people of colour seeking to immigrate to Canada.
  3. Chedly Belkhodja (Professor and Directors of the School for Public and Community Affairs at Concordia) spoke about how we are in a period where people generally accept serious inequality as a fact, and also accept as a fact that there is nothing we can do about it. The takeover of neoliberal ideas of individualism have in fact left us with what he described as a sort of collective anxiety about difference that we feel powerless to address.
  4. Belkhodja also pointed us towards an interesting resource—Martin Pâquet’s book “Tracer les marges de la Cité. Étranger, Immigrant et État au Québec, 1627-1981”, a text which complicates the narrative of Quebec’s “Two Solitudes” narrative that dominates most conversations about difference in the province. The book traces complex histories of immigration and colonisation to give us a much more detailed understanding of how Quebec society understands “the other”.
  5. And finally, a lesson that we have learnt at COCo and that is always worth repeating: organizations, groups, and coalitions that are by and for racialized people are invaluable. On every panel, sub group, and discussion—and particularly in the discussion led by Will Prosper— it came up over and over again how people of colour are exhausted by the racism in their day-to-day realities, and exhausted by having to constantly “educate”. In this context, organizations by and for people of colour, offer an incredible set of resources, sense of solidarity, discussion spaces, and options for concretely fighting back.

These issues have real impacts on non-profits and community organizations– and not only the ones who are by and for people of colour. How do you see racism being addressed in your organizations?

Sabrina McFadden is COCo’s HR & Finances Coordinator.