Feb. 8, 2021

But I live in Canada! Why the former Trump administration’s order banning diversity training matters here too

The UCalgary Psychology Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Blog

Part 2 – How does it affect me?

If you are in a psychology department in Canada, the immediate impacts of this type of order may be less clear. However, just because an order like this doesn’t exist in Canada, doesn’t mean we should ignore the possibility. While there are certainly positive steps being made in Canada (for example, the recent release of Canada’s anti-racism strategy and the creation of a Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat), other examples are not so promising. For example, in his response to the 2020 federal throne speech, the premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney, referred to intersectionality as a “kooky academic theory”. Intersectionality is the idea that our lives are shaped by identities which give us power (e.g., being cisgender) as well as identities that can lead to our oppression (e.g., being non-White in Canadian society) – which doesn’t seem so kooky to us (see Part 3 of this blog series for more on this). In August 2020, the leader of the federal Conservative party, Erin O’Toole, wouldn’t say whether he thought systemic racism exists in Canada, stating that “…when you use a term like ‘systemic’, some of those people feel you’re calling them a racist.” And, in April 2020, Member of Parliament Derek Sloan posted racist and xenophobic comments to Twitter about Canada’s chief public health officer (though in January 2021, Mr. Sloan was kicked out of the Conservative caucus for his ‘extreme’ views). 

As another example, on October 21st 2020, feedback from a politically-appointed panel designed to review the K-12 Alberta curriculum was released. As part of that curriculum feedback, one of the panelists wrote “the ugliness of Dickensian schooling, boarding schools, 19th century discipline methods, and Residential schooling that applied to some Indigenous kids [emphasis added], can probably best be saved for later when learners are more mature…for example, there could be a Grade 9 unit about benign vs. harsh schooling in the past, inclusive of all cultures not only Indigenous, but with regard to the particular problem of Residential schooling even if it applied only to a minority of Indigenous children [emphasis added].” To be clear, residential schools were experienced by the majority of Indigenous children in Canada for over a 100-year period, and were uniformly characterized by trauma and abuse.

So, while the type of order promulgated by the Trump administration in the United States is not in place in Canada, some of our own political rhetoric is swimming in the same pond, and so we should not pretend that the ideas that support it aren’t also present in Canada. What, then, can we do as psychologists? The next part of this blog will address just that.


Thanks to Adam Murry, Aisha Taylor (https://jonesinclusive.com/), Keith Yeates, Anna MacKinnon, Cara MacInnis and Joshua Bourdage for their feedback on this blog.

Disclaimer: The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Calgary nor do they reflect official University of Calgary policy