Interrupted Childhoods and Overrepresentation in the Wrong Places

April 16, 2018
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From an article in Slaw: Race is an artificial and arbitrary social construct, and there is no biological or scientific basis for the racial distinctions we make between people. It is a function of our history and our misconceptions of how people have existed or migrated around the world, and our racial definitions have changed drastically over time based on different environmental and social factors.

Given the lack of objective basis for racial definitions, some people query why we track racial statistics in society at all. Doing so has the potential to ingrain these social constructs and divisions even further, and prevent us from treating all human beings equally.

The problem is that we do not treat all humans equally, and even if we stopped tracking racial statistics, the effects of the erroneous beliefs around races would still persist and have an effect on policies and practices in society. One example of this in Canada would be how we treat Indigenous and Black children in the child welfare system. Although advocates from these communities have long complained about inequitable treatment by institutions such as the Children's Aid Society, there was no ability by these individuals to obtain the information to demonstrate a systemic problem.

That changed this week, with the release of a new reportby the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), which provided the results from a 2-year inquiry into the child welfare system to provide race-based data and data collection practices. The OHRC has the power under the Code to request this type of information, and then make further investigations as to whether the "structures, policies, processes, decision-making practices and organizational cultures adversely affect Indigenous and Black families, and potentially violate Ontario’s Human Rights Code."

What the OHRC found was that there was a disproportionately high indices of Indigenous and Black children across Ontario in many of these agencies. Indigenous children were over-represented in admissions statistics at 93% of agencies, Black children were over-represented at 30% of agencies, and White children were under-represented at 56% of agencies. These findings will be a first step to then review policies, protocols, forms, systems and training, to better understand these disparities and properly address them.

Read more: Interrupted Childhoods and Overrepresentation in the Wrong Places