Tips for Organizing an Anti-Deportation Campaign

illustration of 3 people looking upwards it reads "No human being is illegal. human beings can be beautiful or more beautiful, they can be fat or skinny, they can be right or wrong, but illegal? how can a human being be illegal? - Elie Wiesel"

By Felix and Shabina Lafleur-Gangji

Illustration by Favianna

When it comes to organizing a campaign, people often jump to holding a rally or coordinating some sort of public event. Public events are important but there are so many different strategies that come with organizing a successful campaign. 

The article aims to provide tools and ideas for organizing a campaign against someone’s deportation. However, these are only ideas. Each situation is different and so taking your time and weighing the pros and cons of different strategies is essential. We, as writers do not encourage or condone any particular action, our goal is to simply offer the information we know in order to organize actions as easily and safely as possible. We tried to include as much information as possible, however we understand that our experience is limited. And so, if you are considering organizing an action, we encourage you to speak with other organizers or search online to find resources to support you along the way. 

Know the Risk

Regardless of if you are the advocate or the individual who is at risk of being deported, it’s important to note that anything that is public carries a risk. CBSA and Citizenship and Immigration Canada can look at a public campaign and chose to take “compassion” on the individual or they can use the campaign to justify speeding up the removal. 

Before deciding whether or not to do a public campaign in response to someone’s deportation, it is important to have some knowledge surrounding where their immigration matter is at legally. 

For example, having an application with pending approval can, at times be a safety net if a campaign is held but is not successful in stopping a deportation. It is important that people have good communication with their lawyers during the campaign so they are fully aware of where their immigration status and applications are at. 

Any social media content or press coverage that uses the individual’s name is going to alert the authorities about the case. It’s also going to alert anyone who sees any press about the status of the individual, including employers. Sometimes for their own safety, people prefer to keep campaigns lowkey. This can mean hosting letter-writing campaigns or call-ins to the ministers and CBSA rather than public protests.

Each campaign is different and different people are willing to take different risks. It is important to set boundaries and decide what feels safest before going public.

Know Your Target

It’s important to direct your message to people who have the power to make the change you need. In regards to organizing against a deportation in Canada, you’re generally looking to target these three people:

1)The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

This Minister specifically deals with arrest, detention, and removal. They have the power to release people from detention, grant temporary stays and intervene in removals/deportations. They are a good go-to if someone has a criminal record, is in immigration detention or have a warrant out for their arrest that is related to immigration.

2) The Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

This Minister deals with everything under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. They have the power to initiate an intervention regarding a deportation and or grant someone status.

3) Your Member of Parliament (MP)

MP’s can raise the profile of your campaign and garner support from other MP’s in parliament. 

Make your Targets Aware of your Demands

Gather the contact information for each of your targets. All of their contact information is posted publicly online. From there, you can write them a letter, email, give them a call and/or @ them in your tweets and instagram posts. 

Sometimes campaigns will announce a set number of days where they ask that supporters call or email public officials in order to flood their methods of communication. This helps create a buzz and ensures the campaign is on their radar. 

If you are interested in flooding the emails or phone lines of public officials, it can be helpful to create a template. This template would offer supporters basic information about the individual in question and why they should be able to stay. Creating this makes it easier for people to confidently communicate to officials what the demands are in a campaign.  

Network

It is always important to reach out to other organizations, businesses and well-known people in order to build support for your campaign. If you find groups that are supportive of your cause, it is good practice to get these people to sign onto your demands and share media related to your campaign. If a strong relationship is built, it may be possible to co-organize actions which will increase the reach and capacity of your campaign. 

A great way to involve the people you have networked with is by creating a letter of support they can sign. The letter can then be posted publicly online and sent to officials. This list can grow as your campaign grows.

Create an Informational Sheet

Having a short informational sheet that gives readers a basic overview of the campaign helps get new people involved. These are useful to handout at talks, rallies, workshops or anywhere where you could gain additional support. An informational sheet can also be posted on social media sites. It’s important to keep your messaging concise and simple.

Make a Petition

Petitions are common in any sort of campaign for social justice. It should be known that for a petition to be read in parliament, there are specific requirements that one must follow. If you would like your petition to be read in parliament, look up the Public Petitions page from the House of Commons website under the House of Commons Procedure and Practice section. 

In addition, petitions to grant someone permanent residency are generally used for  humanitarian and compassionate claims (See “Pathways to Status” article for more on this claim). They urge the Minister to grant the individual in question permanent residency. If you are planning on creating a petition for a humanitarian claim, you need to make sure to get a significant amount of signatures (minimum 75-100). 

A typical format one would use for this type of petition would be the following. 


To: the Honourable Ahmed D. Hussen, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, and 
to: Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

We, the undersigned, sign this petition in support of ______________ application for Permanent Residency in Canada.

We confirm that we know ____________ and that they are valued members of our community, and we pledge our support to continue to help them to integrate and establish themselves in Canada.  

We understand that _______________ cannot go back  to _________. 

As such, we ask that you use your discretion under section 25(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and grant Mrs. Cardona Arias Cardona and her family Permanent Residency in Canada.

Sometimes campaigns will also create a symbolic petition (meaning it cannot be presented in parliament) to demonstrate the number of people in support of the campaign. A symbolic petition with many signatures makes a good statement. In this case, you print the petition out and bring it to a public action or hand it in to the office of individuals whose attention or response you are seeking. 

Run a Social Media Campaign

Creating a Facebook Page and including basic information about the case can be very useful. Make sure you include ways people can get involved such as: links to petitions, contact information for government officials you are targeting, information for upcoming rallies, brief description of your campaign and why it is important..etc. In order to grab people’s attention, it’s really useful to have at least one graphic specifically designed for your campaign. This graphic can be used by newspapers, circulated through instagram or used as a poster for rallies. Here are some examples of past graphics used:

It’s also really useful to create a hashtag. Simple hashtags like #LetYusufStay or #JusticeforYusuf are easy to remember. Try to stick to one single hashtag so you can keep track of actions and campaigns more easily. 

Once you have all the necessary information on the Facebook page; create your first post. This post should give readers basic information, include a graphic or video and will invite people to like and follow the page. It’s important to have all this information available before inviting people to like the page. 

When your page is ready, send an email to people you know who will support this campaign with the link and a personalized message asking them to post it on their social media pages. This will help spread the word faster. Friday and Thursday afternoons are the busiest times of the week when it comes to social media traffic and so, if possible, launch your campaign during these hours. 

It’s important to keep your readers up-to-date and to ensure your page stays in people’s newsfeed. You can achieve this by creating regular posts to update people, sharing news stories about the campaign and pictures and posts about upcoming or recent actions. 

Sometimes a social media campaign will involve a call out asking people to post a selfie with the hashtag on a specific day. 

Here’s an example: 

Photo contributed by Stacey Gomez

Create a Press Release 

See Article: Creating a Press Release

Organize Actions

There are many different ways that you can organize an action based on the amount of people you think will come, the risks involved and the timeline/frame. Some people choose to go directly to the office of the Minister who has the power to stop the deportation and addressing them there. They are usually not in their offices, but it can still create a stir when you go to the office directly. Others go to symbolic locations such as Immigration offices where hearings are held and decisions are made. Actions in public spaces with high foot traffic are also very useful as they will gather a lot of attention.

Types of actions

Projection Bomb

This involves putting a projection of an image related to your campaign on the side of a building. It’s generally considered pretty low risk.

Things needed for the action: 

  • A good quality projector with proper lighting to project your image
  • An electrical source
  • A good place for the projector to be placed. 

Usually takes some pre-planning to see what will work since you will need to play around with the angle of the projector to ensure the image is well placed. 

Banner Drop

Creating a large scale banner to drop in a location with high foot traffic can generate some attention. This can also be low risk depending on where you are dropping your banner from (being on private properties is riskier). Sometimes campaigns will organize a day where banners can be dropped in different cities at the same time to highlight awareness of the campaign. This can then be uploaded to social media. 

If you are doing a banner drop, it is important to ensure the banner will legible even when there is wind. Check out different methods of making banners online to ensure it doesn’t fly upwards and is weighed down safely.

Rally

A gathering of individuals in support of the campaign can be a great symbolic action especially when it is done is very public areas.

Some things you might want to include in the rally are:

  • An MC who addresses the crowd
  • A megaphone
  • Speaker(s) to inform the crowd about the issue (1-3 usually). It’s good to have a speaker who gives the broader context of the immigration system and the details of the situation. This can be the individual themselves or an advocate if anonymity is important. 
  • Depending on the context it may also be useful to have a legal advocate speak
  • Signs and placards for people to hold up to ensure you message come across
  • A designated person to speak to the media
  • Some rallies might have hot beverages or snacks for those in attendance

March

Usually, this involves taking over a street and collectively marching to a location to host a rally. If you are occupying a road you want to have marshals on both sides of the road to make sure that traffic is staying away from the individuals and control the direction of the march. If you are occupying a road without a permit for the march, it’s important to have a police liaison to speak with the police. A police liaison must be someone who understands the law, can remain diplomatic and can negotiate with the police officer. The goal of the liaison is to try to keep the people at the rally safe, to make sure no arrests are made and that there is a direct line of communication with the police and organizer of the march.

Some other aspects to consider during the march are to have:

  • An MC who addresses the crowd
  • A megaphone
  • 1-2 speakers before the march begins 
  • Lots of placards and signs
  • A few loudspeakers to lead people with chants. 
  • Noisemakers
  • A designated media spokesperson who can ensure the right message is coming across
  • Depending on your budget, you can also rent an accessibility van to ensure people with disabilities and elders are able to participate or a speaker system to ensure your message is loud and clear.

Blocking an Intersection or a Road

Some people choose to block a road or an intersection. In this case, people generally pick a location that is fairly busy and will cause a noticeable disruption. This type of action is high risk as the police will try to move you to ensure cars are able to reach their location. This means there is a higher risk of arrest, especially if the number of people attending is small. 

Generally for this type of action, an initial group of individuals will take over a road and then call for a larger group of people to come. This can mean a group of ten initial participants proceeded by a rally coming to join. Or, it can look like a section of a march splitting off to block a road and then inviting the rest of the march to join. Everyone has a different method of doing this. However, one thing is certain; the more people you have, the less likely you are to be arrested. 

Communicating the level of risk to participants is essential, especially if they don’t have status. Those who initially block the intersection are usually more at risk of being arrested than people who come after to attend. It’s important to have individuals you can trust in the initial group. Prepping these people should be done ahead of time so they are fully aware of the schedule, risk, and protocols.

It is not uncommon to have drivers get angry if the road is blocked. Speak with your group about what you will do if you are approached by an angry driver or if a car tries to pass through the roadblock.

For this type of action, it is crucial to have police liaisons as they can help negotiate with the police. Their role will be to keep the crowd as safe as possible and negotiate the length of time you are able to stay in the location. The longer you block the road, the more negotiating will have to be done with the police. Additionally, a longer stay often means a greater chance of arrest.

Sometimes people will have a legal team for this type of action who hand out legal clinic numbers or their personal numbers in case individuals are arrested and need to call a lawyer. 

Once the group has taken over the intersection, organizers will often immediately send out a press release to the media which has been prepared ahead of time. It will describe what is happening, why and how people can support along with media such as videos and pictures. You can also have a live video over Facebook or Instagram during this time and send out Tweets.  It is useful to have a designated media person to do this. This person can also encourage people in the group to share posts, write their own posts and take pictures. Another person can be designated to speak to the media that shows up to the road-block to ensure the right message comes across.

Some things to consider including for this action are:

  • Loudspeakers for chants
  • Having leaflets to hand out to drivers and pedestrians to let them know why you are there and what the demands are 
  • 1-2 MC’s
  • Speakers who can inform people about the issues at hand (the case, the immigration system, colonial borders, etc…) 

Storming an Office or Event 

Storming a location usually involves going to an office or speaking event where a prominent individual will be. Sometimes people prefer to take a small group of people to surprise the MP and/or Minister and list their demands. Other times people prefer to be more disruptive and arrive with banners, music makers and a group of people. One or two people will usually speak and list the demands being made. This does involve some research because, if you want to go and interrupt the MPs or even Ministers at their office, you need to make sure they are actually there. Ministers are often not at their offices and it’s important to not waste your time. 

Sometimes people go to events they know prominent people will be at and interrupt that person while they are speaking. Often people will hide banners under their coats of jackets and unfurl them during a speech. It is important to know ahead of time that whoever is speaking will likely getting kicked out or may get arrested.

Occupying  Space

This type of action usually involves going to a symbolic location and staying there until demands are heard. An example of this is when Black Lives Matter Toronto camped out in front of the Toronto Police headquarters. The occupation lasted two weeks and was done to pressure the police to lay charges on the officer who shot and killed Andrew Loku. 

For this kind of action, you will need a dedicated team of people willing to stay for the duration of the event, a police liaison and a media spokesperson present at all times. Depending on how long the occupation lasts you will need to think about food, drinks, first-aid kits, an on-site medic, security, sleeping bags, ways to go to the washroom, methods of charging your phone, etc…

This type of action takes a lot of work and is generally considered high risk. It can lead to arrests, especially if you are taking over an office or a building. Remember; if you are taking over a building or an office, you often will not be able to leave the office or building without being arrested. This means you have to consider a wide range of things including people’s safety regarding status, the medication they need, pet-care, etc.

People will generally ensure some members of their team are not present at the actual occupation. These people will be in charge or talking to the media, arranging other solidarity events, and generally getting the word out about the action.

Sustain the Campaign

Campaigns against a specific deportation often have a short timeline due to the set date of removal. During the campaign, it is important to be consistent. Hosting a different action every two days sounds great, however, if you become too tired by the end of the week then you have missed your goal. Make sure you create a plan ahead of time that ensures no one is too overworked and that you are able to continue to fight until a decision has been made.

Continue to Build Momentum

You can build momentum by raising awareness about the national and global context of immigration and borders across the world. If you are able to organize, connect and build relationships with other organizations, businesses and community members before anyone you know or love receives a deportation order, then you can more readily draw on their support and tools in the future. Workshops, panel discussions, and teach-ins are all great ways to connect.

School – to – Prison Pipeline

illustration of the school to prison pipeline complex

How does the education system and the school-to-prison pipeline contribute to the over representation of black people in the Criminal Justice system?

by Chinwe Nwebube

The school to prison pipeline is a term used to describe the push of students out of schools and into prisons and represents a failure in our current education system. Black students are disciplined more harshly and often achieve lower marks due to disparities in teaching and treatment. Therefore, the school to prison pipeline can be considered a leading factor in the overrepresentation of black folks within the prison system. At its core, the school to prison pipeline is a result of the education system’s inability to meet the needs of its students. Specifically, the presence of anti-black racism in the education system has resulted in the large flow of the pipeline. Anti-black racism is global, insidious, and pervasive. It is the hate and fear of black people which in turn, drives national politics. This increases the representation of black people in prisons. Due to a system that is fundamentally driven by the dehumanization and exploitation of black bodies, there is a lack of effective and unbiased systems within the school. Ultimately there is a disparity between the degree of discipline between white and black students. A school system rooted in anti-black racism, discriminatory discipline and discrepancies in quality of education are factors that will be further examined in order to understand the role the pipeline plays in moving black youth directly to juvenile facilities and prisons.

School System Rooted in Anti-Black Racism

Critical race theory states that racism is a “normal and ingrained feature of our landscape” because racial privilege and related oppression are deeply established from both our history and our law (Brewer and Heitzeg 2008). The legal formation of race has produced systemic economic, political and social advantages for whites (Brewer and Heitzeg 2008). The abolition of slavery did not abolish the hidden racism in the law, but rather, created new methods of redirecting the law in favor of whites (Brewer and Heitzeg 2008).

The ideal instructor in society is one that has the ability to teach without bias or influence from the educational systems; One that would provide equal and substantial instruction to all students. Evidently this is not the case, as societal hierarchies and power dynamics based on race play too strong of an influence. The majority of instructors today in the United States are white women. These instructors often enter the education system with preconceived notions regarding students of colour and of low socioeconomic status (Irizarry 2010). Their curriculum reflects this idea and reinforces these stereotypical identities rather than challenge concepts of discrimination and oppression (Irizarry 2010). Due to this traditional Western mindset, many teachers are aversively racist. Aversive racists claim that they do not hold prejudice based on race however subconsciously feel unease towards people of colour (Irizarry 2010). Since instructors are unaware of their ineffectiveness in the classroom, it is difficult for change to occur in these institutions. The products of aversive racism in the classroom are disparities in the discipline and teaching of white students compared to students of colour.

Discriminatory Discipline

The school to prison pipeline flows in one direction. When black students are involved in the criminal justice system, it is difficult for them to re-enter the education system. There are policies set in place that encourage police presence at schools as well as harsher tactics, and automatic punishments that result in suspensions (Teaching Tolerance 2015). These “tough on crime” policies are large contributors to the flow of the pipeline (Teaching Tolerance 2015). Studies show that African Americans have a higher chance of suspension, expulsion and arrest than white students (Kim, Losen and Hewitt 2010, 34-50). Black students only make up 16% of the overall juvenile population in the United States yet make up 45% of juvenile arrests (Kim, Losen and Hewitt 2010, 34-50). When students of colour and white students commit the same offence, students of colour have a higher chance of being suspended, expelled or arrested for committing the same act (Kim, Losen and Hewitt 2010, 34-50). For example, in 2006 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on behalf of Native American students claiming discriminatory discipline towards these groups of students (Kim, Losen and Hewitt 2010, 34-50). They alleged that it is was three times more likely for a Native American student to be suspended and twelve times more likely for them to be reported to the police, than a white student (Kim, Losen and Hewitt 2010, 34-50). The ACLU found many instances in which discriminatory discipline occurred (Kim, Losen and Hewitt 2010, 34-50). For example, a Native American student was arrested for putting a white student in a headlock and stating “he would break his neck”. However, a white student told a Native American girl that he wanted to “kill Indians” and see her “blood all over” and was not arrested (Kim, Losen and Hewitt 2010, 34-50). In another example, regarding the case of Sherpall v. Humnoke School District No. 5, the federal court found that the Arkansas school district discipline system was racially discriminatory (Kim, Losen and Hewitt 2010, 34-50). Teachers in Arkansas referred to black students as “niggers”, “blue gums”, and “coons” (Kim, Losen and Hewitt 2010, 34-50). It has been argued that higher rates of expulsions for students of colour may correlate to high rates of bad behaviour in school (Skiba et al. 2002). If so, the disparity in punishments would not be of racial bias (Skiba et al. 2002). Since there have been no such studies investigating this theory, one cannot argue that high rates of disruptive behaviour is valid reasoning for the disproportionality in punishments (Skiba et al. 2002).

The aversive racists placed in a teaching position, though subconscious, feel unease towards students of colour. These teachers have preconceived notions of blackness being threatening and dangerous due to an inherent fear of black people. This has been reinforced through a singular narrative that describes a monolithic black experience. They have a deep rooted fear of black students: a result of our country being built on the foundation of anti-black racism. In order to eliminate the threat of black students in the school permanently, they are lead into prisons by any means possible. As previously discussed, this includes more tough-on-crime policies and harsher disciplinary action. The close surveillance of poor black neighborhoods by police is a strategic way to target these communities and schools. As a result of white supremacy, black folks live in conditions that have made them more vulnerable to criminal activity and arrest. Discriminatory discipline can be considered a leading contributor to the school to prison pipeline ultimately resulting in a higher incarceration rate of black individuals. Discriminatory discipline is only a factor because of the creation of aversive racists due to an anti-black racist rooted education system. If anti-black racism could be eliminated from the education system, it is possible to greatly decrease the overall flow of the pipeline.

Discrepancies in Quality of Education

Higher incarceration rates are a combination of “tough-on-crime” policies in the criminal justice system and a lack of quality education that provides needed skill for employment (Hammond-Darling, Williamson, and Hyler 2007). Hirschi’s control theory states that society is a set of institutions that act to control and regulate rule-breaking behaviour (O’Grady 2011, 88-115). If an individual is bonded to society and conventional activities, they will not engage in crime (O’Grady 2011, 88-115). People abide by the law because they are tied to conventional society by social bonds; Social bonds are the degree to which an individual is integrated into the ideals and social ties of the community (O’Grady 2011, 88-115). The weaker the social bonds, the more likely an individual is to engage in crime (O’Grady 2011, 88-115). The lack of involvement in conventional activities results in a higher chance of crime participation (O’Grady 2011, 88-115). Unemployment due to a lack of education will decrease the degree to which an individual is involved in these conventional activities (O’Grady 2011, 88-115). As a result, one is more likely to engage or be exposed to criminal activity (O’Grady 2011, 88-115). Studies have shown that schools with large populations of black students have fewer resources than schools serving mostly white students (Hammond-Darling, Williamson, and Hyler 2007). Minority students are often segregated within schools and are targeted more as a result (Hammond-Darling, Williamson, and Hyler 2007). Many of these schools are so overpopulated that they have a more complex schedule that shortens school days and school years (Hammond-Darling, Williamson, and Hyler 2007). Exclusion from the classroom disrupts the student education and removes them from a structured environment, which can increase the likelihood for deviant behaviour (Kim, Losen and Hewitt 2010, 34-50). The most unequal education system lies in the United States as it provides students with significantly different learning opportunities based on social status (Hammond-Darling 2005). For example, Goudy Elementary School in Chicago which served mainly African American students, used fifteen-year-old textbooks, did not have any science labs, art or music teachers, and had two working bathrooms for 700 students (Hammond-Darling 2005). In the neighbouring town of New Tier that is 98% white, they provided its high school students with superior labs, up to date technology, multiple gyms and an Olympic pool (Hammond-Darling 2005). Also in 2001, students in California’s most segregated minority school were five times more likely to have under qualified teachers than those in predominantly white schools (Hammond-Darling 2005). Attention to these systematic differences is vital to improve the overall education system. If people do not recognize that students have different realities based on their social status, policies will continue to be created on the notion that it is the students, not the school circumstances that are the root of the unequal education.

White supremacy is the belief that white people should control society due to the belief that they are superior to all races. It is critical to also note that this belief of superiority is upheld by different systems of oppression such as patriarchy, capitalism and heteronormativity1. As mentioned previously, racial privilege and related oppression are ingrained features of our history and therefore are ingrained features of our present. White people dominating our society includes them dominating our education system.

1. A worldview that promotes heterosexuality as normal or preferred sexual orientation. The way in which gender and sexuality are separated categories based on a hierarchy.   

As a result, it is predestined that whites should have a better education than all other races. This includes better teachers, teaching facilities and materials. Education lays the foundation for the direction of people’s lives; it is necessary for social, political and economic participation. Since the system is created in order for white people to have the best education, they are technically the only race “fit” to participate in society. That leaves the rest, namely the black population, uneducated and therefore unable to participate. With this criteria, only one system is deemed “appropriate” for black individuals to contribute to: the prison system.

The school to prison pipeline is a main contributor to the over-representation of black people in the prison system. There is a discrepancy between the degree of discipline and quality of education between white and black students. Programs are being put in place in order to abolish the structure of the education system. For example, the Cradle to Prisons Pipeline is a campaign to reduce detention and incarceration by increasing support and services that are a necessity for children (Children’s Defense Fund 2015). This includes access to quality early childhood development, education services and accessible health and mental health programs (Children’s Defense Fund 2015). The Black Community Crusade for Children (BCCC) also aims to dismantle the pipeline through education by expanding programs like Freedom Schools designed for black students (Children’s Defense Fund 2015). The Black Lives Matter movement also inspires communities to fight against the school to prison pipeline as an example of structural racism (Rethinking Schools 2015). When oppressive power structures that are structural and institutionalized are ignored, the over representation of black people in prisons is normalized (Brewer and Heitzeg 2008). When the law ignores racism, black people continue to be abused, manipulated and exploited while the structural persistence of racism is ignored (Brewer and Heitzeg 2008). In society it is important that we aim to establish equity as opposed to equality. Equality disregards power dynamics that are prevalent in society (ie. white supremacy, anti-black racism, etc.) and seeks to treat everybody the same. We must learn to recognize and navigate through these relationships. Ultimately the school to prison pipeline is rooted in anti-black racism. This must be fully addressed and eradicated to fix the system permanently.

References

Brewer, Rose M., and Nancy A. Heitzeg. 2008. “Racialization of Crime and Punishment: Criminal Justice, Color-Blind Racism, and the Political Economy of the Prison Industrial Complex.”American Behavioral Scientist 51(5): 625-644.
Children’s Defense Fund. 2015. “Cradle to Prison Pipeline Campaign”. Last Modified November 2015. http://www.childrensdefense.org/campaigns/cradle-to-prison pipeline/?referrer=https://www.google.ca/
Gender and Education Association. 2011. “What is heteronormativity”. Last Modified November 2015. http://www.genderandeducation.com/issues/what-is-heteronormativity/
Hammond-Darling, Linda., Joy A. Williamson., and Maria E. Hyler. 2007. “Securing the Right to Learn: The Quest for an Empowering Curriculum for African American Citizens. The Journal of Negro Education 76(3): 281-296.
Hammond-Darling, Linda. 2004. “The Color Line in American Education: Race, Resources, and Student Achievement.”Du Bois Institute for African American Research 1(2): 213-246.
Irizarry, Jason M. 2010. “Redirecting the teacher’s gaze: Teacher education, youth surveillance and the school-to-prison pipeline.” Teaching and Teacher Education 26(5): 1196-1203.
Kim, Catherine., Daniel J. Losen., and Damon T. Hewitt. 2010. The School-to-Prison Pipeline: Structuring Legal Reform, 34-50. New York: New York University Press.
O’Grady, William. 2011. “Classical Sociological Explanations of Crime”. In Crime in Canadian Context: Debates and Controversies, Second Edition, 88-115. Oxford University Press: Toronto.
Oxfrod Dictionaries. 2015. “Heteronormative”. Last Modified November 2015. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/heteronormative
Rethinking Schools. 2015. “Black Students’ Lives Matter: Building the school-to-justice pipeline.” Last Modified November 2015. http://www.rethinkingschools.org/archive/29_03/edit293.shtml
Skiba, Russel J., Robert S. Michael, Abra C. Nardo., and Reece L. Peterson. 2002. “The Color of Discipline: Sources of Racial and Gender Disproportionality in School Punishment.” The Urban Review 34(4): 317-342.
Teaching Tolerance. 2015. “The School-to-Prison Pipeline.” Last modified March 2013. http://www.tolerance.org/magazine/number-43-spring-2013/school-to-prison

Black and white Headshot of Chinwe smiling

Chinwe Nwebube is a second year Nigerian-Canadian student majoring in Human Kinetics at the University of Guelph. She currently acts as the Communications and Promotions Officer on the CJ Munford Centre Collective, a center for racialized students on the University of Guelph campus. After witnessing the outburst of racism that took place after an on campus rally in the fall, she was motivated to further investigate institutionalized racism. This resulted in her writing this essay about anti-black racism within the education system and its contribution to the over representation of black people in the prison system.

Finding Common Ground and Fighting Nazis:

a blue image of nazi symbol being shattered by a nail

An Interview with Loretta Ross

By Julianah Oguntala & Shabina Lafleur-Gangji

With the rise of hate crimes and the lack of preventative strategies government are adopting to prevent the radicalization of white supremacists, it can be to easy to feel helpless. In times like these, it can be so important to turn to our elders to help in our fight justice

Recently, I was given the opportunity to interview one of my heros, internationally-acclaimed author, activist and feminist, Loretta Ross, about her work dismantling hate groups. Loretta was the Founder and former Executive Director of the National Center for Human Rights Education (NCHRE) in Atlanta, Georgia, former Program Research Director at the Center for Democratic Renewal/National Anti-Klan Network, the third Executive Director of the first rape crisis centre in the United States and organizer of the largest protest in U.S. history. She holds an immense wealth of knowledge and decades of experience I think many of us could learn from.

Shabina: I’d like to thank you for taking you time to speak with me today. I first wanted to ask you about some of the struggles and challenges you faced when you led your organizing efforts.

Loretta Ross: Well, the biggest struggle, of course, is that when you are doing anti-fascist work, you have to get fascist, which is not always pleasant work and you are not necessarily hanging out with the right people. I was the only woman who ran a research department studying hate groups at the time and I was the only Black person to do it. And so, there was a lot of embedded misogyny and surprisingly, racism amongst the anti-racist movement .

S: Do you feel that has changed over time?

LR: Well, there is certainly more diversity in the people doing the work. Whether or not there is still misogyny or racism in the movement, since I don’t do the work anymore, I can’t say that the organizations are less racist or misogynist. But there are certainly more women writing about fascism. I organized a retreat last year on women and fascism and was able to bring together almost 15-20 people who do that research now and they were all women.

S:Can you talk a bit about the difference in terms of the approach in women-centered anti-fascist organizing vs. the former circles you were running with?

LR: Well, one of the things that men consistently doing the work fail to do is integrate an analysis of gender and so they weren’t intersectional. They usually only talked about racism and sometimes anti-semitism. They rarely talked about homophobia, and never, none of us talked about transphobia, to be honest. I means we weren’t that far ahead of the curve.

But they didn’t integrate gender to my satisfaction. For example, I thought that the violence against abortion providers by the violent vigilante subculture was connected to racist violence and to homophobic and anti-immigrant violence. I thought the walls between what looked like separate movements were in fact right polarists, and people were crossing over. If we are able to be intersectional in their hatred and that was very hard to persuade my male colleagues to give as much attention to misogynist violence as they gave to racist, anti-semitic and occasionally anti-Indian and anti-Immigrant violence.

S: Thanks. Did you want to chat a bit about what you did or what your role was, what were some of the goals of your organization at that time?

LR: Well, the Center for Democratic Renewal National Anti-klan network was the first group to monitor hate groups like that. We started in 1979, two years before the Southern Poverty Law Center. It was started by veterans of the Civil Rights movement, Black and White veterans of the movement. And so, our first goal was to identify people and organizations in the hate movement and our second goal was to publish reports about them to warn people of their potential for violence and therefore potential for affecting the discourse on civil rights, hate, and anti-semitism in the United States. And our third goal was to organize effective responses to them and that meant working with the affected communities. Let’s say when the Klan decided to have a march, to help people come up with effective non-violent responses − because the tendency was for people to want to bury their heads in the sands, hoping that they would go away. Or you had the other extreme response which was the response of violence with violence and we didn’t want either of those responses because they were less than helpful. I started as their program director and my job, at the beginning, was on the community responses. When our research director Leonard Zeskind retired after he got the MacArthur Genius Award, I became the research and program director. And so then my job was monitoring the preparation of reports and dealing with the media.

S: What was your experience working with ex-Klan Members like?  I have read that you have done some rehabilitation with people who had left the Klan. Did you find their ideologies changed when they were working with you?

LR: I don’t think I was responsible at all for their change in ideology because usually they had left the organizations before they contacted the centre and there were a variety of reasons for why they left. Probably the largest single impulse to leave was to avoid being liable, or at least being held responsible, for the criminal activities of the groups of which they were associated. One particular person, Floyd Cochrane, said he left because his second son had been born with a cleft palate and his Nazi buddies said the Aryan Nations told him that his son was a genetic defect who needed to be eliminated; so he had quite a personal reason for re-evaluating the company that he kept. One family, Kian and Carol Peterson, left the KKK because of criminal activities that they didn’t want to held accountable for. So, there were a variety of reasons. The impact that we would have, first of all, was to help them get out of danger. Quite often, they would leave these organizations secretly, sometimes not even being able to carry clothes with them or their household furnishings or anything. They snuck away because they were afraid of retribution from their former colleagues. So it was an informal underground to get them relocated to another city. Similar to a community-based witness protection program. We weren’t the state, we weren’t law enforcement, so we had limited resources. And quite often we would use churches and things as ways to provide them support while they were reorganizing their lives. We did introduce them to different concepts and very rarely was anybody in the hate groups prepared to have conversation on homophobia, for example. And one of the significant moments that I experienced was when Floyd Cochrane had to testify. – chose to testify – I should say, in support of LGBT rights at a state legislature that was trying to pass a hate crime speil.  And that was probably his first time ever really speaking up in support of gay rights. He was trying to make amends for all the wrongs that he had done so he was willing to have his mind expanded.

S: You have been involved with a wide range of social justice fights and activisms. From the founding of the National Center for Human Rights and Education to being their program and research director at the Center for Democratic Renewal/ the national Anti-Klan Network. What motivates you to keep going and to keep the fight going?

LR: Well, I think my biggest motivation is my passion for human rights, which of course evolved over the decade. This wasn’t what I immediately started with. I was a rape and incest survivor and that led me to the anti-violence movement. It was there that I learned to teach Black feminist theory to Black men who were incarcerated, who were rapists themselves. What I learned about myself was that I could have very insightful, passionate conversations with people I wouldn’t necessarily bring home for coffee. And so when you are a survivor, you do the things that help you survive and eventually I developed a passion for social justice and dealt with the assassination of a political colleague in 1980 which frightened a lot of people because we were doing only legal activities so we never thought that the state would move so aggressively against us. Somewhat naively, we didn’t believe that. After Yolanda Ward was assassinated, I had to make a decision. I either had to recommit myself to being in the struggle or do like the majority of my colleagues did and go back into their regular lives. And so that was the point, 1980 was the year I decided that I was going to be a social justice activist for the rest of my life, however long that life was.

S: In terms of the current movement to end race-based violence, what kind of advice do you have for activists and organizers?

LR: Well, I can only pass on the same advice that was offered to me. As I said, my mentor was Leonard Zeskind, and he once told me to lighten up because I was taking the work entirely too seriously. And he said fighting Nazis should be fun, it’s being a Nazi that sucks. And I have always taken that to heart that we can do this work for human rights without sacrificing our joie de vivre and we really can see the world as a wonderful place full of promise and opportunities even as we deal with this netherworld of cynicism and hate. And to not descend into being cynical or hateful ourselves.

S: Right now, you are working on a book, Calling In the Calling Out Culture. Did you want to give a brief description of what the book will be about?

LR: Yes, It’s called Calling In the Calling out Culture and it actually was inspired by a fellow Canadian, Asam Ahmad. He and I spoke on a program together at the University of Massachusetts and I actually was perturbed in the early 2000’s by the vitriol of the internet culture. I was actually surprised by it because I’m fairly elderly, so I wasn’t aware of how much shade was being thrown, how much calling out was being done over the internet. And so when I observed this phenomenon and spoke about it, this young woman told me that this was part of the call out culture and of course young people had named it. And so this caused me to do an internet search and that was when I encountered Asam’s writing on the topic. And so, I began to read a lot on it. And then I figured I had something minor to contribute to trying to change this call out culture, since I had done this anti-rape work working with men who had murdered women and raped them and since I had done this anti-rape work working with men who had murdered women and raped them and since I had done that reprogramming of people in hate groups and things like that. That’s just decades working with problematic allies, in the predominantly white women’s movement. I thought I had learned some lessons that I would like to share about working with people without indulging in the call out culture. And so that’s what I tried to package up in my book. One of my life lessons about dealing with people you don’t agree with is also that you don’t use tactical calling them out as a way of building movements.

S: What are you hoping that the book can incite in terms of impacting call out culture?

LR: Well, the book is primarily on skills building as a pathway for building a more unified human rights movement and so, it’s about self-forgiveness, so that you can then forgive others for the mistakes that they make. It’s about how you can actually go through steps of listening to diverse points of views that you don’t necessarily agree with but still keep the conversation ball rolling. It’s about showing people that it’s possible to do activism in a lot of different ways without doing it in a way that violates people’s human rights.

S: Over your work doing rehabilitative work and working with people who have done some pretty awful things, how do you feel about people’s ability to transform? Do you have hope that we can get through this?

LR: I think the majority of people are just good people who do bad things. And I think that the majority of humanity, if we are honest with ourselves, we are all victimized violators capable of having our human rights violated, and at the same time capable of violating someone else’s human rights. And so that’s kind of how I see the world. I tend to really focus on forgiving others and start from forgiving myself. And trying to find that common ground where we can have discourse, where we can have conversation not with the goal of persuading people to agree with me or believe me. But with the goal of persuading them to work with me so we that can build a human rights movement.

S: Thanks so much, Loretta.

Loretta Ross is the Founder and former Executive Director of the National Center for Human Rights Education (NCHRE) in Atlanta, Georgia, former Program Research Director at the Center for Democratic Renewal/National Anti-Klan Network, the third Executive Director of the first rape crisis centre in the United States and co-organizer of the largest protest in U.S. history.

Black and white picture of shabina hand picking dandelions

Shabina is a community herbalist and organizer working towards the liberation of all people.

Julianah Oguntala is a second year Biomedical Sciences student at the University of Guelph. She hopes to pursue a long career as a physician, providing compassionate care to those who need it the most. She loves to read and spend time with her family.

Protect kaniaterawanon’on: We Report Back

By lako’tsira:reh Amanda Lickers

Background on the shit

The city of Montréal has been looking to do some highway renovations amongst its crumbling colonial infrastructure. Somehow the city is using this need for infrastructural repairs for a highway overpass as an excuse to dump a proposed eight billion litres of raw untreated sewage directly into kaniaterawanon’on:we, or the St. Lawrence River. This is the equivalent to 2600 Olympic sized swimming pools.This sewage includes medical and industrial waste as well as hard solids such as prophylactics, sanitary products and other residential waste materials. Many of you may not know that located on the east end of tionni’tiotiah:ke (so-called the Island of Montréal) is a SunCor refinery, as well as a huge industrial zone. All manner of petrochemical and carcinogenic byproducts and waste materials are included in this release as well.

The popular opinion was very clear cut, even the most iridescent Quebécois nationalists were against this dump. Unfortunately for us as onkwehon:we, the Mayor Denis Coderre was extremely stubborn and refused to head to Federal, Provincial or even International level backlash (a couple New York Senators came out against the dump) adamantly insisting this is “the best possible plan”.

The impacts of this dump are truly unknown. Many onkwehon:we communities will be feeling the impact emotionally, spiritually and physically for generations to come. The effect of toxic effluents within fish and marine populations mean an uncertain future for traditional peoples looking to subsist from fishing and trapping along the river. This includes Haudenosaunee, Metis, Innu, Wolastoqiyik, Mi’kmaq, Abenaki and many other Nations. Further to this, our relatives such as the deer will not be able to read the “do not touch the water” signs now posted across kaniaterawanon’on:we.

This river is one of the most important bodies of water in the entire world, connecting the largest supply of fresh water to mother ocean and whose tributaries feed so many lakes and streams south of the imperial 49th parallel.

A full timeline of events up until the Mercier Bridge Blockades can be found here

Cease & Desist: Actions Escalate

October 6th, 2015

kahtihon’tia:kwenio – the women caretakers of the territory – sent a cease and desist notice to the  Mayor of the city of Montréal, notifying the settler colonial government that their plan to discard this raw sewage into the river of the original people violates kaianere’kowa, the Great Law of Peace. This notice of cease and desist cites wampum forty four of the kaianere’kowa, stating that the women are the decision makers and true caretakers of the territory as our faces yet to be born are carried through by our women and clan mothers. Shortly after this, a sacred fire vigil was set up at the foot of the Mercier Bridge.

October 16th, 2015

Press conference held at Adirondack Junction where rotinoshonni’on:we and supporters lit a fire at the edge of the train tracks as a warning to the Federal Minister of the Environment and the Mayor of the city of Montréal that if our notice of cease and desist is not headed we will be forced to escalate actions in order to protect kaniaterawanon’on:we – the river of the original people.

October 22nd, 2015

In light of a lack of commitment on behalf of colonial officials to stop the dump into our river, rotinoshonni’on:we and some settler supporters made good on our promise to escalate actions. Thursday, October 22nd at 9am we shut down the train tracks that run through Kahnawake, one of the main economic arteries, preventing both commercial and industrial train traffic from moving for over an hour, costing untold thousands of dollars for CN rail.

For a video of this Rail Blockade visit:

www.facebook.com/subMedia/videos/vb.199700056830375/718247161642326/?type=2&theater

Mercier Bridge Blockades

#StopTheShit

November 10th & 11th, 2015

On November 10th it was announced that the dumping will take place at midnight. rotinoshonni’on:we and settler supporters came to the Sacred Fire Vigil that evening to form a plan. As with all community spaces there are differing perspectives and experiences. Fortunately, Kahnawake has a rich history of resisting settler colonialism and imperial occupation. The community meetings up to this point and this evening were very intergenerational and we are very grateful for this. It is important to acknowledge the work and experiences of our Elders who have seen many more battles than those of us coming into young-adulthood, and there has been strong leadership coming from youths under the age of 20.

As rotinoshonni’on:we, within kanianere’kowa, we have a responsibility to the faces not yet born to protect our peoples, our lands, our lifeways and our water. The people who assembled at the Vigil and whose chose to take action are just that, common people. As rotinoshonni’on:we it is our birthright to protect the natural world and all that which sustains life.

The power is in the people and the people took the power on these nights. Folks from age 17 to 76 years-of-age were out blockading the Mercier Bridge, to show our collective strength to our colonial occupiers imploring them to stop the dump. Each night the bridge was blockaded until midnight. The entire time there were different speakers expressing their ideas, their strategies and their concerns for which tactics will be the most effective. Trying to navigate multiple perspectives in a horizontal style, where there is disagreement and also historical trauma is very difficult. However it was the younger folks who took the lead for action, after much discussion around the fire, and broke off and marched onto the bridge. Once the blockade was safely established, Elders and folks who were maybe a little shy decided to join. Many people stayed by the fire or moved to the side line to observe and show support.

The 207 Longhouse showed its support of the people and was present while the blockades took place, whose presence helped to ensure the safety of community members.

The entire time we were given support from the drivers and people who were forced to re-route as a result of the blockade. We sang songs, chanted and raised hell as much as we could in the cold dark night. At one point even some pizza was ordered to us to keep us warm and fed. The act of blockading the Mercier Bridge was very controversial especially amongst Kahnawakeronon, as the historical trauma from the Protection of the Pines (“oka crisis”) is still fresh for many. These moves however were made by Kahnwake youth who felt a strong sense of urgency and took action in a way that was accessible and effective. Working through and dealing with community-based historical trauma is one of the many complex aspects of organizing within onkwehon:we contexts.

Kahnawake Survival School Walk Out

November 13th, 2015

After the bridge blockades many youth from Kahnawake decided to lead a walkout from the

Kahnawake Survival School to demonstrate against the dump.

The Shit Stops

November 14th, 2015 

The city of Montréal stops dump after four billion litres of sewage released into kaniaterawanon’on:we.

Although we were unsuccessful in preventing the entirety of this desecration into our river – the lifeblood of our territories – and really our own bodies, we were able to delay the dump for over a month’s time and Mayor Merde Coderre only let go four billion liters instead of eight billion liters. Is this a win? There is still shit in our river. It is important that although we are grieving our river and know that any desecration by the militarized occupation on our lands known as Canada or Québec is a form of biological warfare against our people and all members of creation, we must also see that the power remains within us and despite impossible odds we can make some kind of impact. There are many lessons to be taken away from this experience and our communities are constantly learning and adapting. We must fortify ourselves and our movements in order to ensure that next time we will only be successful in reaching our goals.

Protect kaniaterawanon’on:we

contact: reclaimturtleisland@gmail.com

Reclaim Turtle Island (RTI) is a grassroots, volunteer organization that survives solely on the donations of generous people. RTI has been one of the main sources for independent, indigenous run news from across Great Turtle Island and has been especially involved with the on-the-ground efforts to protect kaniaterawanon’on:we.


LAKO’TSIRA:REH AMANDA LICKERS

turtle clan seneca / tionni’tiotiah:ke livin

Amanda is a femme, 2 spirit spoken word poet, filmmaker and curator with Reclaim Turtle Island (@defendourlands), an all ndn grassroots media justice collective which focuses on anti-colonial cultural production and fanning the flames of the Indigenous insurrection, supporting grassroots land defense and sovereignty struggles.

A History of Anti-Racist Organizing at the University of Guelph

by Mina Ramos

In the summer of 2017, the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) – Guelph  launched the People’s History Project with the goal of creating a digital archive that holds the history of social movement building in Guelph, Ontario (Dish With One Spoon / Mississauga of the New Credit traditional territories). To start off the project, I decided to begin to document racial justice organizing carried out by and for racialized students at the University of Guelph, a predominantly white institution in a predominantly white community.

It comes as no surprise that the rich history of anti-racist student organizing is largely unacknowledged. 

Above: Protest in the UC for the National Day of Divestment in South Africa on March 21st, 1979

As an institution that ranks fourth on Maclean’s magazine’s list of top universities and boasts “Changing Lives, Improving Lives” as its slogan, it certainly doesn’t benefit the University for racialized students to know the history of ongoing racial discrimination and administration’s broken promises, or the successes of student organizing and the erosion of some of those gains over time. 

What follows is a timeline of racial justice organizing at the University of Guelph in recent decades. Though currently incomplete, it is my hope that this ongoing project can offer racialized students a resource that can inform future organizing.

It’s important to note that though I use the term “racialized students,” the majority of the organizing documented here has been led by or involved Black students. Additionally, I have yet to research or conduct interviews with regards to Indigenous students’ organizing, so that critically important history is missing from this timeline.

Timeline

1977 – Michael Clarke, a white university student, returns from 3 years in Sierra Leone where he worked as a teacher through an NGO called CUSO. He is moved by his development work in Africa and is appalled by the South African Apartheid Regime and Canada’s involvement in this regime. Although South African Apartheid has been in legislation since 1948, organizing against South African Apartheid in Canada only begins to gain traction in the mid-1960’s.

Michael wants to demonstrate to Canadians how Canada is implicit in this regime. He also wants to organize to disrupt the Canadian and South African economy, who are both benefiting from South African Apartheid. He researches the concept of divestment and contacts the African National Congress (ANC).

Alongside his life partner Suzanne and a colleague at the university, they align themselves with the ideologies of the African National Congress and begin to organize an event in Peter Clark Hall, with speaker John Saul from York University, to talk about South African Apartheid. They make a sign at the event which reads “Guelph Campaign for Divestment in South Africa”, and have a sign-up sheet for people interested in getting involved.

November 11th thru 15th 1978 – The African Student Association (ASA) hosts a week long conference called “Africa Week” which highlights the resistance to South-African Apartheid amongst a series of other topics involving African empowerment, economics, autonomy and self-representation. The “Guelph Campaign for Divestment in South Africa” is officially formed after the conversations that come out of the conference. The newly founded organization is made up of white students, who work very closely with the African Student Association. This is largely attributed to the fact that all of the ASA students are international students who do not want to put their status at jeopardy, as well as the fact that the majority of these students are in mathematics or science and cannot contribute the same amount of time to the campaign. The campaign joins OPIRG Guelph as a working group and sets out the following goals:

  • Put on a series of events which raise awareness on the regime of apartheid
  • Educate Canadians on how they and the government of Canada are implicit in apartheid
  • Finding ways to assist in the process of change ie. raising funds, divestment…etc
  • Getting individuals to join the movement

A National Day of Action for divestment is set for March 21st which the campaign plans to take part in. Members of the campaign plan to call on students and organizations to withdraw from the 5 banks involved in lending money to the South African government ie. CIBC, TD Canada Trust, RBC, Scotiabank and BMO. The date of March 21st is chosen because it is symbolic to when the Sharpeville Massacre occurred in 1960 in South Africa.

From January leading up to the Day of Action, the campaign calls bank managers and trust company managers to get their positions regarding investment in South Africa, they create informational posters and pamphlets, begin circulating a petition for disinvestment of the university, hold information tables, show movie screenings, and host fundraisers.

During this time, Michael Clarke joins the Senate as a representative of the Graduate Students Association with the sole purpose and strategy to bring up a motion for the university to endorse divestment as a means to urge the Board of Governors of the university to divest.

March 20th 1979 – The University of Guelph  student senate passes a motion that endorses divestment and recommends to the Board of Governors that the university should divest. The amount of money held by the university in banks is around $85-$90 Million at this time.

March 21st 1979 – The National Day of Action for Divestment takes place. There is a march organized in the University Centre (UC) and student activist Ben Loevenstein chains himself to the front door of the CIBC located in the UC. Over 250 students withdraw funds, and organizations including the African Student Association, the Photo Arts Club, the Biological Science Student Council, CUSO, OPIRG, the politics club, and the West Indian Student Association all withdraw. In total $180,000 is divested on that day. The National day of Action is seen as a wide success.

April 26th and 27th, 1979 – The Board of Governors is set to vote on whether or not to divest the University of Guelph’s funds. The Board of Governors votes to not divest despite the huge amount of pressure from the campaign. Organizers are crushed. Many stop organizing, get back to school and/or graduate and the movement dies down.

Early 1980s – A new wave of students are on campus and after taking classes led by Professor Clarence J Munford on Black History, Precolonial Africa, African politics…etc,. They want to get involved in organizing in some way (1.)

 Among them is a student named Gayle Valeriote who approaches OPIRG and begins organizing against South African Apartheid as an OPIRG working group under a new name: the South African Interest Group (SAIJ). The new group is again a predominantly white group who continues to work very closely with the African Students Association. At this time the tactic of organizing changes. The group, who is taking action under the direction of the African National Congress (ANC) moves away from divestment and towards boycotting South African products instead; primarily wine. They host boycotts and pickets, and organize anti-apartheid awareness events and fundraisers.


1. Although this is the first time Clarence J Munford is mentioned, it is important to note that Munford is a bit of a legend at the university. At this time and until he leaves the University of Guelph, Clarence J Munford is widely regarded as the go-to for black students on campus to express concerns and to voice frustration about racism on campus. He is the only one at this time teaching classes relating to Black History and radical African politics.

Among them is a student named Gayle Valeriote who approaches OPIRG and begins organizing against South African Apartheid as an OPIRG working group under a new name: the South African Interest Group (SAIJ). The new group is again a predominantly white group who continues to work very closely with the African Students Association. At this time the tactic of organizing changes. The group, who is taking action under the direction of the African National Congress (ANC) moves away from divestment and towards boycotting South African products instead; primarily wine. They host boycotts and pickets, and organize anti-apartheid awareness events and fundraisers.

1981 – The Latin American Solidarity Group is formed as a working group of OPIRG by two chilean political refugees, Augustine Lobos and Goly Medina, who are living in Guelph. At the time, there are civil wars and dictatorships all across Latin America. They want to raise awareness about the human rights violations and repression occurring in Chile and in the rest of Latin America. They also want to fundraise and send donations to communities that need them. They operate for 13 years and in that time organize music shows, coffee houses, speaking panels, attend protests and also work in solidarity with other groups and raise many issues affecting other countries and communities through their group. They also work very closely with the African Students Association and the South African Interest Group.

1982 – Students from the of the South African Interest Group approach the administration asking to confer an honourary degree to Nelson Mandela for his work with the African National Congress in fighting against South African Apartheid. Although this is largely a symbolic gesture, they want the university to take a formal stance against South African Apartheid through this action. The university administration denies the request saying that they cannot confer an honourary degree to someone who is in prison.

June 4th 1986 – After a lack of support fro the university to confer an honourary degree to Nelson Mandela, SAIG takes matters into their own hands and organizes an alternative convocation which will take place the same day as the regular convocation on the other side of Johnston Green. They decide that they will create their own honourary degrees and give them to Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Dorothy Nyembe and Ahmed Kathrada. Over 100 students attend the alternative convocation and members of the ANC accept the degrees on behalf of these individuals.

1990 – The Race Relations Association (formerly the multicultural club) is created by a faculty member named Leon Hall. The group is open to all racialized students, faculty members and administration who want to discuss and raise issues related to racism on campus, visibility, representation, policy and space. They try to bring attention to issues happening outside of campus as well and connect them to the racism occurring on campus and in Guelph generally. The Oka crisis and killing of Dudley George spurs conversation around colonization and racism against Indigenous people in Canada. They also begin acknowledging police brutality towards Black Canadians and anti-black racism occurring in different parts of Southwestern Ontario.

Members of the group also attend actions outside of Guelph. One former member recounts how members of the association attended the Yonge Street Riots in 1992 in Toronto, as well as the protests that came afterwards.

During this time Clarence J Munford is also working with the Race Relations Association, and independently to bring speakers to give lectures on campus. One of the biggest speakers Clarence J Munford brings is Stokely Carmichael, a Trinidadian born civil rights activist from the US.

It is important to note that during this time there is an exceptional amount of Trinidadian students studying at the University of Guelph, and as a result, this time is seen as the height of the West Indian Students Association. However, one past student that I interviewed highlighted the distinction that it was often students born in Canada who were engaging in critical discussions on race and racism in Canada, while international studen were more focused on hosting cultural events and parties and did not necessarily engage in this dialogue as much.

During this time the Black Women’s Society is also created and serves as an open space for black students to specifically talk about issues affecting black women in Canada.

March 6th 1990 – Students protest the speaking event of widely known white supremacist Paul Fromm, whose right wing organization C-FAR (Citizens for Foreign Aid Reform) booked the space called The Albion under false pretenses. They find out about the event after a student places an unclassified ad in the Ontarion the week before. The Albion denounces the event, but under the guidance of student activists, the Albion gives away all of the tickets so that student organizers can take up all of the seats during the event. As Fromm is speaking the students unanimously turn the chairs around and turn their backs on him. Things get heated but there is no physical violence. Students from OPIRG, the Race Relations Association and the Guelph International Resource Centre all attend and the protest is seen as a widespread success to curbing racism in the city. As a result, the Albion issues an official statement stating that they are against all forms of racial discrimination.

An Anti- Apartheid picket in Guelph in the 1980s

Above: An Anti- Apartheid picket in Guelph in the 1980s

June 1990 – Members of SAIJ travel to Toronto to meet with Nelson Mandela during his cross Canada speaking tour, after his release in February. During this month, community members and students at the University of Guelph also travel to Ottawa to protest South African Apartheid by calling for the closing of the South African embassy in solidarity with Black South Africans fighting for their right to vote.

1992 – A subcommittee of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Educational Equity begins discussing a race relations policy for the university. At this point, there is a Human Rights Advisor named Indira Ganase Lall working at the university, but no human rights policy exists at the university.

During this time, a Canadian Graduate Educational Equity Survey demonstrates that in Canadian universities 30% of students of colour are discriminated against based on their skin colour, 51% based on their race, and 46% based on their ethnicity.

Out of this growing awareness of racism on campuses across Canada, the Presidential Task Force on Human Rights is created in Guelph. Clarence J Munford is accredited to being one of the strongest backers of this policy and sits on the Task Force. There are also members of the Race Relations Association on the Task Force as well and old members of the South African Interest Group.

In 1993, the Task Force is renamed to the Presidential Task Force on Anti-Racism and Race Relations. They meet once a week from January to May, and realize that is crucial to not only create a policy but release a report on the realities of racism on campus and to highlight the experiences of students of colour on campus. Many students are pushing for this taskforce and one former member jokes that they would have people knocking on the door wondering when it would be released. She adds that the process took such a long time because they wanted to make sure they had covered all of their tracks and created a useful document for the university to actually implement changes.

When the report is finished, it is dense and breaks down understandings of race, racism, and how it plays out in universities. It outlines that these issues are the result of systemic racism, white privilege, and eurocentrism at all levels of the university. It also gives a historical timeline that demonstrates the different racist laws that have shaped Canadian policies, economy, culture, society…etc. It is the first document ever created at the university that demonstrates how racism plays out in universities, and shares specifical in-depth examples of the racism students have experienced on the University of Guelph campus.

Many recommendations are made and go into great detail as to how these recommendations can be implemented. Some main recommendations are:

  • The formation of an overall human rights office
  • That at least one counsellor of colour is hired and one Indigenous counsellor is hired
  • That enrollment must reflect the racial diversity of the country and that the recruitment system is monitored to eliminate systemic barriers to accessing university
  • That the admissions Committee members be required to attend seminars on racism, systemic racism and inclusivity
  • That space and funding be allocated to the Race Relations Commission for the creation of a Student Resource Centre for racialized and Indigenous students and that funding should allow for a permanent paid employee to coordinate the Centre
  • That a core course be developed on human rights issues as soon as possible to become a permanent course offering
  • To assess the curriculum in different departments in regards to racism, as well as having the curriculum reviewed with input from students of colour and Indigenous students so that there is a wider range of racial and cultural issues covered in class.
  • That all course descriptions should be reviewed for accuracy. If the course doesn’t match its description it should be renamed ie. Topics in the History of Women should be renamed Topics in the History of Western white Women if it is only about white women to be consistent.
  • Creating a monitoring system to track employment equity and that the practices are actually being followed, evaluate the ability of candidates for faculty positions to teach courses on the basis on anti-racism and in a cross-cultural context
  • To ensure that representation of people of colour and Indigenous people does not fall below current levels; vacancies should be filled by a qualified person of colour or Indigenous person
  • That one full-time-equivalent Advisor be appointed to assist the current Human Rights Advisor in dealing with complaints of a racial nature
  • A guideline for a systemic review of all of the University’s services and programs and a ten year implementation plan
  • That the following groups attend an anti-racist training annually: President, Vice-President, Deans, Academic Advisors, Board of Governors, Academic Councils, Management Advisory Groups, Program Counsellors and Departmental Faculty Advisors, Graduate Coordinators, Student Housing Administration and University College Project

In order to have accountability with the report, the Task Force asserts that a follow up report be made in 1995 to assess the completion of the suggestions. 

They want this report to be made accessible to all students, faculty and administration (2.)


2. At this point in my own research I am unsure if this follow up report was made

July 1993 – The Anti-Racism and Race Relations Task Force report is published. It is printed in the Ontarion and individually, and is distributed all over campus. Many former students comment that this Task Force causes an uproar in dialogue and a denial of racism on campus from the campus administration, including the university president of the time, William Winegard.

1994 – As a result of the recommendations of the taskforce, the race relations association is given a space and is transformed into the CJ Munford Center (named after Clarence J Munford). However there is no paid employee for the space and instead a collective is formed for the center.

October 18th 1995 -University of Guelph Human Rights Advisor Indira Ganese Lall and Human Rights Assistant Sharon Harris, quit after only being offered month-to month-contracts instead of permanent position. Lall, who amassed most of the personal stories of racism on campus for the Taskforce, finds the offer offensive in light of her contributions. Both staff also leave as a result of their frustration with how human rights policies are being carried out/not being carried out on campus.

1996 – The Human Rights and Equity Office opens. Although students and faculty have been pushing for an office like this, they are outraged that an individual by the name of Ralph Agard has been hired following the departure of Indira Ganase Lall and Sharon Harris. Ralph Agard is widely known in Toronto as a perpetrator of sexual assault and students feel that it is an insult to what they have worked for to have him placed as the director of the office. A huge expose is written about Agard in the Ontarion and the ribbon cutting is protested by several racialized students. A sit-in at the Human Rights and Equity Office is planned but Ralph Agard is quietly dismissed before this ever happens. Ralph Agard is replaced by the current Assistant Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Education, Patrick Case.

February 1997 – The President’s office is occupied for a week by students seeking justice for cutbacks to education. This action is part of a wave of student activism against cutbacks, and similar occupations occur at the University of Toronto and York University. At this time groups of colour get involved in the occupation and join up with other organizations that are predominantly white. Both groups address racism on campus and connect this to the cutbacks and how they affect people of colour.

Mid 2000’s to late 2000’s – Rose Mcleod is hired by counselling services to give counselling support for black students. She works out of the CJ Munford centre and provides informal counselling support. Her hiring is also a result of the Taskforce on anti-racism. One former student describes that Rose Mcleod was instrumental to the functioning of the CJ Munford Centre and its growth at that time. Not only did she provide counselling support, she helped to direct students to appropriate offices depending on what services they were seeking, set up weekly discussions at the Centre and helped to facilitate collective meetings.

Despite being the heart of the Centre, the university does not take appropriate steps to secure funding for her position and organizations like GRCGED, the CJ Munford Centre and counselling services are left to seek out grants to pay for her position. Eventually the university administration decides that her position is not justified because of the informality of her work. Students at the CJ Munford centre organize to keep her position and go through all of the official channels including setting up a meeting with student affairs and more specifically the Associate Vice President Brenda Whiteside to convince the administration to find funding for her position to continue. There is also talk about reviving the Taskforce and creating an up to date report; however this is not followed through with. Despite their countless meetings and efforts, Rose’s contract is not renewed and in 2013 she leaves the university and the CJ Munford Center is again functioning without a paid staff.

Black On Campus march across campus on 2015
Black On Campus banner drop in the UC, 2015

Above: Black On Campus march across campus and banner drop in the UC, 2015 

Nov.18th 2015 – Along with 3 other universities, Black students at the University of Guelph hold an action in solidarity with Black students protesting at the University of Missouri and Yale University in the United States. With less than 24 hours’ notice, student organizers Galme Mumed, Savannah Clarke and George Umeh bring together over 100 students to stage a campus wide march. This is the first time in the history of the university that a march organized and attended by mainly Black students addressing anti-black racism has ever taken place. The majority of the Black students in attendance are from the CJ Munford Centre. Black students are encouraged to write out their experiences of racism on placards and share their ,m before the march. The march takes place through the entire campus and ends in the Office of Student Affairs where protestors confront Brenda Whiteside for her complacency in dealing with systemic anti-black racism at the university. Although the action is initially seen as a solidarity event, organizers realize that the demands put forth by students in Missouri are similar to what is needed at the University of Guelph.

Overnight this action becomes the talk of the entire university. Extreme racist backlash is received online through facebook pages like “Overheard Guelph”. The students who organized the initial action secure funds from on-campus organizations and hire an informal counsellor to help with the stress that Black students are dealing with post-action. In the midst of this, organizers also roll out their own set of demands which they present to the University president Franco Vaccarino, Brenda Whiteside and the assistant vice-president Jane Ngobia. The demands are as follows:

  1. Discuss and change the underrepresentation of Black administrators, faculty and teaching staff with the goal of increasing the percentage of black faculty and staff members.
  2. Address the underrepresentation of Black students in all programs.
  3. Establish mandatory equity training for all faculties, students, governors, and all other administrative bodies. This entails mandatory anti-oppression training for all persons employed by the University, and an equity breadth requirement for all students.
  4. Increase the number of scholarships and funding resources available to black and Indigenous students.
  5. Establish counseling and mental health services on the U of G campus that are culturally appropriate and representative for addressing the mental, emotional, and psychological needs of black students. At the U of G, there is only one Black counselor available that understands the mental health needs of Black students.
  6. That the administration take leadership under the CJ Munford Centre in order to properly support them in implementing the anti-racism taskforce. In addition funding a full time position under the taskforce that is created and overseen by the CJ Munford Centre students.
  7. Develop a plan to establish, adequately fund and support a standalone Black, African & Caribbean Studies Department.
  8. Implement free education for Black and Indigenous students.

The demands set out in 2015 are strikingly similar to those of the anti-racism taskforce which the University administration itself asked for yet did very little to implement any of the recommendations.

Instead of addressing these demands head on or revisiting the taskforce (which goes into great details as to how the administration can implement changes), the university administration decides to have their own discussions with Black students and holds 40 interviews with Black identified students. Through this, they create their own report which highlights what students organizers have already said and come up with broad strategic plans with lots of fluff to make the university more inclusive. There are very little tangible goals. Most of the demands initially set out by Black students are not acknowledged at all, including those centered on more scholarships, mandatory anti-oppression training, free education and actually paying someone to implement the anti-racism taskforce of the 1990’s. Instead, they create a full-time position in support of cultural diversity which will be held within the Office of Intercultural Affairs in Student Life. It is interesting to note that there was never funding made available for Rose Mcleod during her stay at the university but funding is immediately made available for another administrative staff outside of the CJ Munford Centre.

During this time the CJ Munford Centre change their name to the Guelph Black Students Association to be more visible on campus.

This is presently where the timeline ends. However there is so much work to be done to not only fill in the blanks on the resilience and organizing of racialized students as well as the intricacies of how the administration has managed to escape responsibilities.

Currently, the funding has run dry for this project; however the aim is for it to be an accessible multi-media digital archive that will serve as a tool and guide for future generations of racialized students looking to organize at the University of Guelph.


Mina Ramos
Mina is a mixed race queer who is based out of Brampton ON. She is passionate about ideas, thoughts and issues grounded in resistance movements of all kinds and the intricate connection to spirituality but specifically organizes in the realm of migrant justice.