By Janica Maya
Statues in Canada have stood motionless for centuries, but have sparked movements against racism and discrimination in the country.
In the wake of global protests against systemic racism and discrimination, many have called for the removal of statues of famous figures associated with racial acts in Canada. The absence of minority figures reveals the missing voices in Canada, and this has prompted for an alternative approach on how schools should reintroduce Canadian history with a more inclusive and intersectional view.
According to Natasha Henry, a Black History curriculum consultant and Ph.D. History student at York University, the curriculum in Canadian History is very Eurocentric and it shows the commemoration of statues in Canada. She says: “What is taught and what is memorialized are the colonial beginnings of Canada. These political leaders, who were the elite, were anchored in the curriculum and memorialized in a lot of the monuments. Producing these narratives some of the history gets erased and marginalized.” As we see with the monument of Sir John A. MacDonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister, who was an architect of the Residential school system, that separated over 150,00 indigenous children from their homes.
Statues are not only a symbolic dedication to the founders of identified institutions or of their work, but an incomplete image of these leaders.
Students and alumni at Ryerson University are calling for the removal of the controversial statue of Egerton Ryersonon campus – who the school is named after. Ryerson was a public educator but involved in the establishment of residential schools. A Ryerson alumni Mustafa Malick says: “It is a big step because it shows that people care and are willing to make a change, so it's not about the removal of the statue itself, but the effort or care that people put into this."
Since the start of the protests, people are learning the issues of racism that challenge the Eurocentric foundation of Canadian society. As a result, many have expressed their concern for having statues of leaders that took part in racial acts.
Malick adds: "Although I'm in computer science, it's important for me and for everyone else to understand our history and I'm openly trying to sit and learn the things I should have learned in school.”
The lack of intersectionality and inclusivity within the educational system sustain institutional racism as it maintains a Eurocentric view of Canadian history that disregards the history and voices of minorities.
According to Henry: “The educational system does play a role in helping to address or perpetuate the ignorance and the racism.” She claims that there needs to be a more critical understanding of colonization and its effects, and intersectionality can better represent a broader spectrum of Canadians. She illustrates that there should be attention to the way the curriculum systematically erases Black presence, and the curriculum needs improvement that can speak to Black experiences.
As the protests against racism have become more of a global movement, they have also circulated in other forms of media, in turn reaching the younger audience. This audience can come to understand the effects of racism and discrimination amongst minority and racialized groups. To further enhance their knowledge on these ongoing issues is to continue the conversation in the classroom.
"If we are not engaging in conversation and learning around what's happening now in all of our classes, all of our subject areas, we wouldn't have young people who have organized and lead marches," says Henry.
To encourage these dialogues is to include an inclusive and intersectional view in schools to hear the missing voices of Canada and challenge the dominant ones.