Canadian University Holds First ‘White Privilege’ Conference

Big Valley, CANADA: A weathered Canadian flag flutters in Big Valley north of Calgary, Canada, 11 June, 2007. AFP PHOTO/David BOILY (Photo credit should read DAVID BOILY/AFP/Getty Images)

May marked the first “white privilege” conference held by Ryerson University with hundreds of academics and others gathering at the Toronto-based institution.

The week-long event, which took place from May 9th to May 12th, was largely organised by Ryerson’s first vice-president of equity and community inclusion Denise O’Neil Green.

Green told Canadian media her definition of “white privilege” was “an unearned benefit or ‘perk’ that one receives simply because of their skin colour. A more multi-layered way of looking at it is that white privilege operates in terms of a system that benefits particular groups over others”, the Toronto Star reports.

Another major figure who took part in the event was Rinaldo Walcott, an associate professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, who has been a vocal supporter of the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and participates in the “Faculty for Palestine” group.

When asked about his response to people who say white privilege does not exist, Walcott dismissed criticism saying that white working class people have an easier time progressing up the socio-economic ladder than black people or indigenous people.

“White privilege is not about demarcating a particular racial group. It’s pointing to ways in which an already demarcated racial group — in fact, a group of people who have historically marked other people as “not white” — has, through violence and other means, built a society in which they accrued the most privilege,” Walcott said.

“White privilege” has not been limited to academic debate in Canada in recent years with government institutions being commanded to make themselves “more diverse” and even implementing hiring policies in which white Canadians are not welcome.

Earlier this year, the public broadcaster of the French-speaking province of Quebec declared that the public sector was “too white” as the number of minority residents in Quebec has almost doubled from 2001 to 2016.

In the western province of British Columbia, school administrators attempted to address and apologise for their privilege with a poster campaign in which Superintendent of Schools Teresa Downs said: “I have unfairly benefited from the colour of my skin. White privilege is not acceptable.”

 Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at) 


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