Frances Henry, Enakshi Dua, Carl E. James, Audrey Kobayashi, Peter Li, Howard Ramos, and Malinda Smith. the Equity Myth: Racialization and Indigeneity at Canadian Universities

By Guns, Linda Many | Canadian Journal of Sociology, Fall 2017 | Go to article overview

Frances Henry, Enakshi Dua, Carl E. James, Audrey Kobayashi, Peter Li, Howard Ramos, and Malinda Smith. the Equity Myth: Racialization and Indigeneity at Canadian Universities


Guns, Linda Many, Canadian Journal of Sociology


Frances Henry, Enakshi Dua, Carl E. James, Audrey Kobayashi, Peter Li, Howard Ramos, and Malinda Smith. The Equity Myth: Racialization and Indigeneity at Canadian Universities. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2017, 316 pp., $34.95, paper(9780774834896)

This book captures the experiential side of the university environment as told by racialized and Indigenized sector scholars. It exposes a better understanding of the equity regimes that exists which have varying support in making the ideological claims of promoting equality. In addition, it provides a review of the various models developed to provide equity protection to staff. Given the wide scope of data collected: from employment length, to length of time to reach full professorship, wages, equity offices and policies reviews, this text provides much needed exposure of the surrounding contexts in which equity issues arise or rest, and the processes that are put into place to address the issues. The assemblage of these knowledge pieces collectively shapes and defines the landscape that surrounds those of us with Indigenous and racialized backgrounds, and helps to portray the realities we maneuver through what are obviously systemically and intellectually controlled spaces in the edifices of higher education in Canada. This is a much-needed book that discloses glaring gaps in equity policy and procedures that almost seem to be designed to fail at meeting their objective of meaningful equity. As the book demonstrates, our existing equity policies are cumbersome, ineffective and often superficial structures. This information is important to my colleagues in understanding how the deceptively loose construction of policies impacts and reinforces the conditions we work in, while disclosing the flimsy and /or nonexistent institutional protection against racism and inequality in Canadian universities.

The introductory chapter frames the larger contexts in the chapters that follow. I was immediately impressed with how the writers managed the language difficulties--in particular the references to terms for 'racialized minorities' and "Aboriginal' peoples--given the myriad of conflicting terms used by government, found in policy, and/or woven into data. These decisions were explained in a respectful, thoughtful manner, which as a starting point, encouraged me of the authors' ability to capture perspectives such as mine, and which drew me in further. I am a Blackfoot woman from the Siksika Nation.

After carefully reading each chapter and seriously reflecting on the content, I believe the overall message of the book is certainly well captured in the title--the equity myth. The book provides ample comparative data on how Canada sits internationally, reviewing statistics on visible minority and Indigenous populations in the academies of the United Kingdom, United States and Australia (Henry, Kobayasi and Choi, 2017: 24-45). The text notes in several parts of the investigation, the lack of uniform data collection as a significant problem causing disaggregation issues in compiling the data and is further noted as an ongoing and universal problem. An oversight, I would suggest that helps to obscure the facts. One is reminded, by the authors--who benefits from the lack of data collected? Without the data collected, experiences remain individualized or simply seen as evidence of a person not 'fitting in' (300-305) or as subjective interpretations that float disconnected without background data to attached them to known realities.

Ramos and Li report earnings and employment inequities that visible minorities face and also report earnings disparities between ethnic groups. The writers also note that visible minorities are underrepresented in the universities they studied across Canada, which supports research reviewing inequities in the UK, USA and Australian universities, and suggests an underlying problem of unequal treatment and lack of protection, which results in systematic pay inequities. …

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Frances Henry, Enakshi Dua, Carl E. James, Audrey Kobayashi, Peter Li, Howard Ramos, and Malinda Smith. the Equity Myth: Racialization and Indigeneity at Canadian Universities
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