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CAUT Bulletin Archives

November 2010

Visible minority, ethnicity distinct

I read with admiration the CAUT Almanac included with the September edition of the Bulletin. But I was disappointed when looking over the Almanac figures summarizing academic staff by visible minority and ethno-cultural background (figure 2.8 & table 2.19, p. 20). Most particularly, in table 2.19, the terms “white,” “black” and “visible minority” are listed as categories of “Ethnocultural Groups.”

These terms do not designate ethnocultural background but, rather, visible minority status. The two concepts are completely different and are recognized as such by Statistics Canada’s separation of the questions between visible minority groupings and ethnic ancestry.

This distinction is important. Under the above designations, a supposedly white, European community such as the Portuguese, which comprises 1.3 per cent of the Canadian population, is not even identified in table 2.19. Yet, this is one of the groups in Canada with severe underepresentation among the ranks of faculty. I suspect the same could be said of similarly large, visible minority, ethnocultural communities such as the Vietnamese or Haitians.

Similarly, a group such as Latin American, many of whose members are descended from the same white European origins that are excluded in table 2.19, is included as a designated visible minority.

It’s important to keep clear the distinction between visible minority status and ethnocultural origin and avoid the tendency to view race and ethnicity in a polarized and simplistic fashion. If our goals are ones of social justice and having our faculty ultimately reflect the composition of our wider community, then our statistics should reflect the ways in which that community divides itself.

Fernando Nunes
Child & Youth Study
Mount Saint Vincent University

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