Concerns over Bill 67, Racial Equity in the Education System Act
Race and racial reconciliation have been a leading issue in North America in recent months and years. Numerous incidents have pushed this conversation forward, from massive Black Lives Matter protests to the discovery of unmarked graves at residential schools in Canada. We are hearing people having real and important conversations, grappling with the atrocities of history and how they impact our present reality, including the reality that prejudice and racism still exist today. On December 2nd, 2021, NDP MPP Laura Mae Lindo introduced Bill 67, The Racial Equity in the Education System Act and it overwhelmingly passed second reading on March 3rd, 2022 with the three main political parties supporting it. Only New Blue MPP Belinda Karahalios voted against it.
What is this bill about?
Bill 67 proposes changes to several Ontario Acts with the goal of rooting racism out of Ontario’s education system. Here are some specific changes that Bill 67 is looking to make:
- Require the Minister of Education to develop an anti-racism accountability report to ensure new teachers are properly trained in anti-racism and racial equity.
- Provide a mechanism to fine someone up to $200 for interrupting proceedings of schools or a class using racist language or activities.
- Add performance appraisals related to a teacher’s anti-racism awareness and efforts to promote racial equity.
- Require the Minister of Education to establish policies and guidelines to promote racial equity in schools.
- Require school boards and principals to establish and implement racial equity plans and post them on their websites.
- Require accredited Ontario College of Teachers to complete training and examinations in anti-racism.
- Require all colleges and universities that receive Ontario government funding to create anti-racism and racial equity policies.
At face value, many of these changes seem like “no big deal” and something Christians can get behind. But an underlying problem lurks in the definition of terms. Two terms are a cause for confusion: “anti-racism” (used 58 times in the legislation) and “equity” (used 54 times). When we understand what these terms mean when used by those that ascribe to what is more broadly known as Critical Race Theory (CRT), we begin to understand why so many are rightly concerned about Bill 67.
The term equity is easily confused with equality. The Christian worldview supports equality, in that we recognize that all men and women are created in the image of God (Gen. 1:27) and hold equal value and dignity. Each individual is to be treated equally before the law regardless of colour, creed, or sex. But, for critical race theorists, equality is not the same as equity and it makes a big difference in the context of Bill 67. In a recent podcast, Jordan Peterson explained the difference between equity and equality:
“Equity is predicated on the idea that if there is any difference in outcome between any group imaginable – those groups could be defined by gender, race, sex – if there is any difference in [an] outcome of any sort, that is not only an indication of profound and systemic bias characterizing whatever domain is being questioned, but it is incumbent upon all the members of that domain to regard themselves as prejudiced and biased and to view the non-equal outcomes as systemic bias.”
Barbara Kay explains equity in a recent Western Standard article,
“Equity and equality sound similar, but they are worlds apart. Equality is about starting lines for individuals offered the same opportunities to exercise their talents and ambitions, but doesn’t guarantee equal success for everyone. Equity is about finishing lines for groups. If minority groups don’t achieve the same outcomes in proportion to their numbers in the population, there can only be one reason: racism or some other form of bigotry exercised by an oppressor group with privilege.”
When we read the term ‘equity’ in Bill 67, it is crucial to remember that equity is not referring to making sure that there is a level playing field for all Ontarians. Instead, it is striving to make outcomes the same for all, even if that means holding some people back. We are to accept that if outcomes are not the same, it is because of the effects of racial bias or prejudice and no other factors. And if you don’t agree that bias or prejudice is to blame for the struggles of some that is evidence that proves your bias or prejudice. This ignores the actual overwhelming obstacles some students face in their ability to thrive. Bill 67 would allow this thinking to become a building block of Ontario’s education system.
What does that mean for Ontario’s education system? The Ministry of Education, school boards, and teachers would be tasked with ensuring that outcomes for all students are the same – regardless of merit. And if racial minorities don’t achieve at the same levels as their counterparts, they are told two things: that the colour of their skin is what is holding them back, and that they cannot achieve the same level of success without someone else (ironically, usually a privileged white bureaucrat) intervening on their behalf. This is incredibly condescending and has racist undertones of its own.
The other word that needs clarification is ‘anti-racism.’ Merriam-Webster defines anti as “one that is opposed.” And who would say that they are not opposed to racism? Again, all men and women ought to be treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their race. James 2:1 reminds us to “show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” How could we not be in favour of policies that call for and help bring about an end to racial discrimination in Ontario schools? We all should be in favour of such policies. Unfortunately, this is not what is meant by the term ‘anti-racism’ as found in Bill 67.
In an effort at clarity, the bill includes an explanation: “anti-racism” means the policy of opposing racism including anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Black racism, anti-Asian racism, antisemitism and Islamophobia.” You’ll notice a clear omission of the Caucasian race here – in the eyes of critical race theorists, one cannot be racist towards white people.
Best-selling author and critical race theorist Robin DiAngelo writes in her best-selling book White Fragility that “a positive white identity is an impossible goal. White identity is inherently racist; white people do not exist outside the system of white supremacy.” In a similar vein, activist Ibram Kendi in How To Be An Antiracist writes, “The only remedy to racist discrimination is antiracist discrimination. The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”
Noted Christian author and expert on critical race theory, Samuel Sey responds to this thinking:
“God doesn’t instruct us to repay evil for evil or racism for racism. God doesn’t instruct black people to assume the worst of white people because some white people assume the worst of black people… God commands black people like me to assume the best of white people, even if some white people assume the worst of black people like me… Racism is a vicious cycle that would be stopped if we refused to repay evil for evil—racism for racism.”
In that same blog post, Sey points us to 1 Peter 3:8-9: “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”
ARPA Canada has long advocated for Christian anti-bullying policies to refuse to include long lists of aggrieved identity groups. The Bible admonishes against a focus on people’s diverse personal characteristics (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). We believe that including specific references to particular personal characteristics does not foster unity or equality and is in fact detrimental to the goal of true equality. We believe that God’s commands to love our neighbour and to practice patience and kindness towards all people apply to all people, at all times (Mark 12:31; Luke 10:25-37). Bullying is wrong. Period. Racism is wrong. Period.
Critical race theorists, along with most progressive thinkers of our day, get identity wrong. Barbara Kay explains, “CRT does not care about your child’s individual character. CRT teaches that we should judge others and ourselves only by skin colour, gender identity, DNA (indigenous status), and other group markers.”
In a book review of DiAngelo’s White Fragility, Samuel Sey sums up anti-racism this way, “Anti-racism is just pro-racism appearing as an angel of light. Anti-racism is an anti-Christ ideology that uses racism as a means to fight supposed racism. It’s an ideology that labels good as evil and evil as good. And it’s in direct opposition to Christianity… Anti-racists and white supremacists agree that a person’s skin colour is the most significant thing about them. They agree that a person’s skin colour shapes who they are.”
As Christians, we know that who we are is based on who our Creator is and, for the Christian, who our Saviour is. God created humanity good and in His image (Gen. 1:26-27), with the ability and responsibility to care for and rule over creation (Gen. 1:28). Our first parents rebelled against God (Gen. 3) and corrupted our whole nature (Eph. 2:3). Depravity is total – it touches all parts of our lives, including our bodies, intellect, and will. Depravity is why we have the evil that is racism in our world. No human effort, including political efforts, can eradicate evil. Yet even after the fall into sin, a remnant of God’s image still exists in all humanity (James 3:9). Although it is greatly obscured by sin (also the terrible sin of racism) and is used to serve the creature rather than the Creator, this image of God still exists. As such, humanity possesses inherent and inalienable dignity and worth that separates us from all other creatures. This dignity is given to all humans, regardless of tribal characteristics. This inherent dignity must be honoured by all. Pray that it is and that the Church might be able to share this liberating perspective in the spirit of true reconciliation.
North America’s history includes awful, racially motivated crimes that must be recognized. But responding to our history and any ongoing discrimination or racism with more discrimination and racism is the exact opposite of the reconciliation that is needed. Codifying new forms of prejudice in Ontario’s education system will not unify us.
But what about Bill 67?
While this bill is quite concerning because it looks to infuse a terribly divisive ideology into Ontario’s education system, it’s important to understand that Bill 67 is not likely to pass third reading in the Ontario legislature, which means is not likely to become law in Ontario at this time. There is simply not enough time before the election for this bill to be studied in the Standing Committee for Social Policy and then returned to the legislature for third reading.
Having said that, even if this bill is not passed, it’s important to understand that this thinking is already prevalent in much of our society. To that end, we ought to be prepared for more legislation like this in the future. Reach out to your MPP to let them know your concerns about this bill. As we approach an Ontario election, keep this issue in mind as you ask questions of those candidates seeking your vote.