SFU speaker explores why educational institutions need to include more Black history in their material

Anti-Black racism and exclusion has existed in Canadian education systems for far too long

June Francis, business professor and director of the Institute for Diaspora Research and Engagement at Simon Fraser University. (Submitted) 

On Feb. 5, the BC Black History Awareness Society hosted an online event titled “History of Anti-Black Racism in Canadian Schools and Universities.” June Francis, business professor and director of the Institute for Diaspora Research and Engagement at Simon Fraser University, was the speaker for the event. 

As the title suggests, Francis discussed the history of Black exclusion in universities and how it continues to be manifested in Canadian institutions today. She emphasized the need for more Black educators in schools and having them teach about Black history and heroes from the Black perspective. 

“The colonial project was there to justify, to support white supremacy by elevating white ideas,” Francis says. “It is focused on European and white justification for Black people being seen as a subjugated group of people and justify why they enslaved us.”

Francis is also a chair member of the board for the Hogan’s Alley Society. This community is working to make Vancouver acknowledge the intentional displacement of the Black community in 1970. The society wants to see Hogan’s Alley be rightfully returned to the smaller but growing Black community in Vancouver. 

The history of Black people in Canada is not the only topic that Francis would like to see more of in the education system. Black people have had, and continue to have a significant role in literature, sciences, performing arts, social sciences, and many more topics, but are still excluded from each division. 

When Black history and contributions are not taught accurately, Black students are not the only ones affected, Francis says. 

“It teaches others to think of them as inferior because they think that what teachers and professors teach are the important things. So when things are excluded, the implication is that these people are not important.” 

Acknowledgement for Black exclusion in universities needs to be one of the first steps to dismantling colonial education institutions, Francis says. Education should be prioritized, and research should be conducted, and only then will action plans be formulated for execution, she added. 

“Ensure you’re taking away barriers, addressing the advantages that are given to some people, which by de facto means that some people are being disadvantaged.” 

SFU set forth a motion to hire 15 more Black professors, which was supported by the student population. Francis hopes that this will allow students in British Columbia to learn about the true history of Black people in the province and country. 

Signing the Scarborough Charter on anti-Black racism and Black inclusion is another important step that Francis would like to see all universities across B.C. and Canada participate in. KPU signed on to the charter in November 2021.

“When other people talk about us, they talk for us. These stories have been robbed, buried. Because of this exclusion, we don’t even know our own British Columbia history and history matters. We don’t know who we are or where we came from,” Francis says. 

The BC Black History Awareness Society has many more events planned for the remainder of Black History month, both virtual and in-person.

From Feb. 11 until Feb. 27 is a ‘Dynamic Diasporas’ event at the Vancouver Mural Festival focused on visual storytelling and dance. 

The Vancouver International Film Festival is also showcasing movies throughout the month that feature Black stories and voices.