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Perspectives on Racism and the Human Services Sector

Perspectives on Racism and the Human Services Sector: A Case for Change

edited by Carl E. James
Copyright Date: 1996
Pages: 266
  • Book Info
    Perspectives on Racism and the Human Services Sector
    Book Description:

    Today's social services agencies are faced with the challenge of responding to the diverse needs and expectations of a growing multicultural population. This volume examines race and racism in Canada from historical and contemporary perspectives and explores the extent to which these factors operate within social services systems related to immigration, settlement, the justice system, health, and education. The contributors, including practitioners, educators, and policy makers, argue for specific changes in current approaches to service delivery and provide practical suggestions for services that make it possible for various communities to be served more effectively. The collection also proposes an anti-racism approach to service provision to produce a system that is beneficial to all Canadians, particularly Aboriginals and racial and ethnic minorities.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7838-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)

    This book fills a gap in college and university curricula for future human services providers. Until now there have been few systematic attempts to address racism in the actual provision of these services. Accepting the challenge for change is not easy, because often the inherent racism of the policies and practices of service agencies are invisible. They generally reflect the perspective of mainstream Canadians and the belief that agenciesʹ accountability is to the bureaucrats of various levels of government. The result is the maintenance of an unsatisfactory status quo.

    This book courageously takes up the challenge and generates many valuable...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Contributors
    (pp. xv-2)
  6. Introduction: Proposing an Anti-Racism Framework for Change
    (pp. 3-12)

    In an economically, ethnically, and racially stratified society like ours, individualsʹ inability to gain access to, and receive, services that address their particular needs and expectations is not merely a result of their failure to take advantage of available services. Rather, it is in part a consequence of the structural barriers that are inherent in society. Within this context, human service agencies are expected to provide services that are responsive and sensitive to the diverse needs and expectations of their clients/participants. For todayʹs human service practitioners this is a formidable challenge.

    So, how are agencies addressing these challenges? What structures...

  7. PART ONE: Perspectives on Race and Canadian Society

    • Chapter 1 Race, Culture, and Identity
      (pp. 15-35)
      Carl E. James

      Since the 1960s, considerable attention has been paid to the Canadian cultural mosaic so that there can be greater intercultural understanding. Despite this attention, we still find ourselves grappling with the multicultural nature of our society and with issues of awareness, sensitivity, appreciation, and acceptance.

      As we attempt to understand the multicultural and multiracial nature of our society, we find that there is much ambiguity and confusion about the terms culture, ethnicity, race, multiculturalism, prejudice, ethnocentrism, and racism, to name a few. Yet these terms provide frameworks for the way we view ourselves and interact with others. If we are...

    • COMMENTS: Disturbing the Silence: Reflections on Racism and Aboriginal People
      (pp. 36-44)
      Corinne Mount Pleasant-Jetté

      I wish to discuss the issue of racism and people of the First Nations of Canada, and the commitment of authorities to respond to the very real problems that continue to face Native communities.

      For over four hundred years, the first inhabitants of North America have lived alongside those people who chose to come to the ʹNew Worldʹ and establish for themselves a society primarily based on values of freedom, democracy, and the pursuit of material prosperity. From the first encounters with Europeans, the First Nations peoples of Turtle Island sought to maintain a way of life that was based...

  8. PART TWO: Racism in Canada

    • COMMENTS: Reflections on Racism
      (pp. 47-50)
      Rosemary Brown and Cleta Brown

      United Nations statistics reveal that Canadaʹs twenty-seven million people constitute the most culturally and racially diverse nation in the world. As Barbara Ward, the noted British economist has observed, Canada has grown into ʹthe worldʹs first international nation.ʹ What is even more remarkable is that research also reveals that this nation with its population that speaks more than one hundred different languages has been ranked the nation that ensures its people the best quality of life of any nation in the world. Somehow, for over 125 years Canadians have been able to live in comparative peace with each other and...

    • Chapter 2 A Historical Perspective on Racism
      (pp. 51-75)
      Akwatu Khenti

      At the dawn of the twenty-first century, Canadians are confronted with ʹracist ghostsʹ that many believed had been buried in the ashes of Nazi Germany. These ghosts, embodied in groups such as the Heritage Front in Toronto and the Liberty Net group in Vancouver, have been springing up all across Europe and North America and are busy recruiting young and old alike.¹ Their ʹracistʹ platforms are gaining ground as growing numbers of Canadians express public dissatisfaction with ʹopenʹ immigration, multiculturalism, employment equity, and anti-racism, with little apparent concern for the historical context within which these policies emerged. Indeed, in response...

    • Chapter 3 Manufacturing Racism: The Two Faces of Canadian Development
      (pp. 76-92)
      Valerie Bedassigae-Pheasant

      The European invasion of Turtle Island (North America) launched powerful economic and social currents that created and ultimately shaped the contemporary situations of First Nations people. Responding to the social, economic, and political situation of First Nations people requires an understanding of the manner by which Natives are governed. Traditionally, the original inhabitants of Turtle Island were organized as autonomous nations, were self-regulating, and maintained intricate and sophisticated forms of government that supported women as decision makers (see Allen 1986, Robbins 1992). Complex systems of consciousness developed science, medicine, astronomy, philosophy, egalitarianism, and religions that supported ceremonial and ritual aspects...

    • Chapter 4 Racism in Canadian Immigration Policy
      (pp. 93-103)
      David Matas

      Few Canadians know that Canada, which now prides itself on its tolerance of racial and cultural diversity, is a nation with a sad history of racism, or that this racism was until recently enshrined in law. The first section of this chapter provides an overview of Canadian immigration law up to 10 April 1978, when the present Immigration Act came into effect; and the second examines contemporary immigration policies and initiatives. References are made to some of these laws and policies by other contributors (for example, Khenti, St. Lewis); however, I will discuss them in relation to immigration.

      To talk...

    • Chapter 5 Race, Racism, and the Justice System
      (pp. 104-119)
      Joanne St. Lewis

      This chapter presents a critical examination of race and the Canadian justice system. It starts with a brief review of the legal-historical framework in which racial issues arise, and proceeds to discuss contemporary issues in Canadian law that are related to race. Practical recommendations will be provided throughout the discussion.

      Before proceeding, let me clarify the term ʹracialized communities,ʹ to which I refer throughout the discussion. ʹRacialized communityʹ refers to communities whose members have traditionally been identified as ʹracial minority,ʹ ʹvisible minority,ʹ or ʹpeople of colour,ʹ and whose identities are often constructed with reference to race, racism, and/or exclusionary experiences;...

    • Chapter 6 Anti-Semitism in Canada: Realities, Remedies, and Implications for Anti-Racism
      (pp. 120-133)
      Karen R. Mock

      Many involved in anti-racism work would say that anti-Semitism is not racism and that it is not systemic in our society; they argue that Jews, though they can be from many different racial backgrounds, are primarily white and members of the power structure, and thus cannot be victims of racism. While most Jews would acknowledge what can be called their ʹwhite privilegeʹ in a racist society, I believe that there has been, and is currently, a powerful racist component in anti-Semitism, and that anti-Semitism must thus be on the anti-racism agenda.

      In addition to dealing with the present manifestations of...

    • COMMENTS: Racism and the Issue of Voice
      (pp. 134-136)
      Kass Sunderji

      The CBC is sometimes called the guardian of Canadian culture. Yet, if CBC-FM were the only radio station I listened to, I would never know that there were people of non-European origin living here. Occasional concerts of sitar music on ʹArts Nationalʹ or well-meaning references to the multicultural Toronto scene on ʹThe Arts Tonightʹ would not change that perception. I once pointed this out to a CBC program director attending a national conference on visible minorities and the media. His response was that as a national radio network, the CBC had to reflect the ʹcoreʹ cultural make-up of the country...

  9. PART THREE: Racism and the Human Service Sector

    • COMMENTS: Social Services Agenciesʹ Role in the Fight against Racism
      (pp. 139-139)
      Rosemary Brown and Cleta Brown

      Social service organizations have to be in the forefront of challenging the myth that racism does not exist in Canada, and in combatting its debilitating effects on individuals. In their role as protectors of the most vulnerable members of society, social service agencies have a special obligation to strive ceaselessly to deal with the impoverishing impact of racism. The interrelationship and exacerbating interaction of racism and poverty cannot seriously be denied, especially when one remembers the economic roots of racism and the economic need that relies on its continuation. Since the two invariably coexist, social service agencies cannot hope to...

    • Chapter 7 The Impact of Racism on the Education of Social Service Workers
      (pp. 140-151)
      Carole Pigler Christensen

      For some time, Aboriginal peoples and Canadians of minority ethnic and racial backgrounds have voiced concern about the impact of racism in both education and social services (Head 1977; Mawhiney 1995). Although the two may seldom be connected in the minds of the general public, I believe that the lack of access to social services experienced by members of minority and Aboriginal communities is directly related to the way social service workers are educated. This paper explores the nature of that education, indicates how insufficient attention to race, culture, and ethnicity hampers workersʹ ability to provide sensitive and appropriate services,...

    • Chapter 8 Anti-Racism and the Human-Service Delivery System
      (pp. 152-170)
      Carol Tator

      The cultural and racial diversity of Canadian society creates significant challenges to our human-service delivery system. Social and health-care agencies are experiencing growing pressure from a wide range of external constituencies (funding bodies, government agencies, and community advocacy groups) to adapt their policies, programs, and practices. Schools of social work, nursing, and medicine are being asked to include cross-cultural and anti-racism training in their curricula. The overall goal of these changes is to develop more effective, accessible, and equitable human-service delivery systems. Recent legislative decrees and public-policy enactments such as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, employment-equity legislation, the Canadian...

    • Chapter 9 Immigrant Service Agencies: A Fundamental Component of Anti-Racist Social Services
      (pp. 171-182)
      Dawit Beyene, Carrie Butcher, Betty Joe and Ted Richmond

      The roots of racism in this society are very deep, extending back to the genocidal treatment of the Aboriginal peoples in the occupation of their lands. The adoption of multiculturalism as federal and Ontario government policy held out to various ethno-racial groups a promise of increased equality that went beyond the official rights accorded to the English and French languages and nations. But multiculturalism to date has turned out to be more of a philosophical goal than a reality, particularly in relation to the problem of racial discrimination.

      One dimension of racism in Canadian society is our immigration policies –...

  10. PART FOUR: Implementing Change

    • COMMENTS: Equitable Access Is a Right, Not a Privilege
      (pp. 185-186)
      Kass Sunderji

      Historically, Canadian social service agencies in urban centres have operated on a model that assumed a racially homogeneous clientele with a well-defined value system and knowledge of at least one official language. The significant influx of non-European immigrants in the 1970s and the 1980s challenged traditional service-delivery models. And just as cultural agencies have sometimes hidden behind legislation in order to keep non-Europeans from having a voice in the cultural life of their respective communities, welfare and family-service agencies have occasionally cited legislation to justify their inability to accommodate cultural differences.

      The view that equitable access to social services is...

    • Chapter 10 The Anti-Racist Cast of Mind
      (pp. 187-195)
      Charles Novogrodsky

      Anti-racism, the work of undoing and unlearning racism, makes us advocates in the community, in our workplaces, and in our educational practice. Anti-racist actions – the nitty-gritty of what we say, how we say it, and how we regard those with whom we speak and work – are all informed by our own anti-racist outlook. This essay is a reflection based on my anti-racist practice in a variety of organizational and training settings. It discusses the challenges of anti-racist work, key ingredients of effective advocacy, and the anti-racist cast of mind.

      Those who work to advance ethno-racial equity frequently encounter...

    • Chapter 11 From Uni-versity to Poly-versity: Organizations in Transition to Anti-Racism
      (pp. 196-208)
      Arnold Minors

      Like other living creatures, organizations use energy to preserve their integrity, or uni-versity. They treat staff, volunteers, and clients who are different in much the same way biological organisms treat viruses and bacteria. Organisms use their resources to isolate or expel intruders, even when the intruders help them respond to serious threats, and, over time, very few organisms survive without adapting to the environment. Similarly, over time, very few organizations are successful without changing in response to internal and external forces. In order to survive and thrive, human service organizations must be able to change their practices. In particular, they...

    • Chapter 12 Towards an Equitable, Efficient, and Effective Human Service System
      (pp. 209-221)
      Adrian Johnson

      My purpose in this chapter is to highlight a framework that may provide guidance to practitioners who must facilitate anti-racism change within organizations charged with delivering accessible human services. This framework is characterized by the interaction of the practitioner with service issues at a number of levels. These are the personal level, the community level, the political level, the agency level, the funding level, and the system level. While I will discuss each separately, it is important to bear in mind that they are all interrelated factors. Hence, issues that affect one factor will necesarily affect the others.

      At the...

    • Chapter 13 Human-Rights Law: A Legal Remedy
      (pp. 222-230)
      Mark L. Berlin

      What are human rights? Why do we need them? How do we protect them? What impact do they have on us, our organizations, and our society? This chapter will try to answer these and other related questions by looking at human rights from a historical and comparative perspective.

      Human rights can mean different things to different people. For one person it can be the right to write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper criticizing an elected politician. For another it may be having enough food to feed hungry children. For someone else it may be free access...

    • Chapter 14 The Nuts and Bolts of Employment Equity: A Quick Primer for Social Service Agencies
      (pp. 231-243)
      Cynthia Stephenson

      Social service agencies are out on the front line every day, working to help people from all walks of life, all backgrounds, and all parts of the country cope a little better with their problems, improve the quality of their life, and find hope and dignity. They deal with everyone from unemployed professionals to public-school drop-outs, from Canadians with roots going back generations to new immigrants, from ex-offenders to victims of family assault. Some agencies are focused on specific client groups, but the bottom line is alwayspeople. Staff and volunteers are committed to providing the best possible service they...

    • COMMENTS: On the Need for Change
      (pp. 244-245)
      Corinne Mount Pleasant-Jetté

      Like cellular phones and recycling bins, organizational change is the hot product of the 1990s. Social practices, demographic patterns, and other aspects of life have evolved to such an extent that to resist change is to deny reality. Corporations, agencies, and institutions across Canada have recognized clearly that the status quo is unacceptable. Thus, they must commit themselves to better communication, to environmental awareness, and to improved delivery of human services. Those organizations that respond to these challenges of the nineties will be better prepared to provide service in the next century.

      There are many reasons why established norms and...

    • Afterword: Common Issues, Common Understandings
      (pp. 246-252)
      Sabra Desai

      The theoretical and practical ideas in this book provide a rich resource of information that will help us to forge new ways of understanding the process of anti-racism organizational change and development. In addition, the work also provides analyses of the historical backdrop that gives anti-racism organizational development its moral synergism. Moreover, the essays point to implications for Canadian society as we take critical action towards creating more just and accessible human services. This work represents the collective knowledge and experience of educators, civil servants, consultants, and ʹgrass-rootsʹ community organizers employed in many aspects of human service delivery. As educators,...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 253-266)