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Racial Inequalities in the Times of COVID-19: Sociological Perspectives on the Social Production of Racial Inequalities in the Canadian Context

Research Webinar 2021

The crisis of public health generated by covid-19, has exacerbated many social inequalities in the Canadian context. In this webinar, Carleton graduate students in Sociology and instructor from the seminar “Race, Class and Ethnicity in Contemporary Societies” will discuss the manifold ways through which racialized minorities have been affected by the cultural representations, public policies, and social stigmas which have been enacted in the times of the pandemic. The panelists will engage with a variety of sociological perspectives on race, class, and ethnicity to scrutinize the manifold ways in which racial subordination and racial exclusion have been deepening within the context of covid-19 in the Canadian Context. They will also discuss how those inequalities have been contested by social movements and the possibilities for inter-racial solidarity that have been opened up.

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Presenters and Abstracts:

Benevolent Racism is Fundamentally Canadian, Sorry.

Camille L. Boucher
MA in Sociology, Department of Sociology and Anthropology – Carleton University

This presentation critiques a settler-colonial framework to explore the patterns of heightened COVID-19 infections in the BIPOC communities in Toronto. By connecting Canada’s history as a settler colonial state, to the liberal rhetoric that is linked to a self-proclaimed ‘tolerance’ and ‘un-racist sentiment’, this presentation will pinpoint how denial promotes the classification of a people deemed expendable for the continued operation of essential services is based on racial capitalism. Because BIPOC individuals tend to be funneled into service and domestic work (Maynard 2017), they face additional adversity while members of higher economic status are able to work remotely, and (literally) afford to adhere to physical distancing. By challenging liberal rhetoric with the increased presence of COVID-19 in the BIPOC community, this presentation will evidence that settler-colonial consciousness continues to drive Canada’s culture at the expense of Othered communities

Disposable Bodies: Migrant Labour, Racial Capitalism, and the Global Covid-19 Pandemic

Sadie Gibson
MA in Sociology, Department of Sociology and Anthropology – Carleton University

This presentation critically engages with migrant labour schemes, utilizing the Canadian Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) as a frame of analysis. A central argument is that racial capitalism evidenced in the Canadian TFWP renders migrants as disposable bodies in Canada’s embrace of low-wage migrant labour. The evidence of the hyper-commodification and exploitation of migrant labourers and their bodies is further illustrated by the covid-19 global pandemic, which in Canada has resulted in a new visibility of such inequalities, and the catastrophic outcomes resulting from failed protections and failed policies. This presentation suggests that the global pandemic has further illustrated that disposability and racial capitalism are both part and parcel of migrant labour schemes. The covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the inequalities and inequities experienced amongst migrant labourers in profound ways, which highlights the lack of pre-existing worker protections resulting from failure to install credible oversight mobilized through the racist ideology deeply embedded within the Canadian nation state. The mechanics of racial capitalism made visible within the Canadian TFWP suggest that Canada is still very much entrenched in the logics of settler colonialism, which this paper argues continues to disparage racialized peoples.

Unequal Pathways to Success: A Case for Reparations for Black Canadians

Courtney Lanthier
MA in Political Economy, Institute of Political Economy – Carleton University

COVID-19 and the disproportionately negative effects on Black communities and citizens highlights the importance for a revival in the reparation’s conversation. The purpose of this presentation is to build on evidence of state-control over socially reproductive activities and make a case for reparations to Black Canadians for historical and ongoing injustices. This paper explores three key aspects of social reproduction: education, work and labour, and socio-economic indicators. I argue that in its absence in ensuring the wellbeing and advancement of Black Canadians, the state is sanctioning the violence and injustice that is prevalent within Black populations, spaces, and communities. This paper also seeks to adapt the reparations conversation into a Canadian context, by suggesting a few key areas where policy can change to give credence to the Black experience. Policy changes are needed to curb ongoing injustices. Reparations will form the foreground on which challenge anti-Black racism and its consequences.

Inter-Racial Solidarity in the Times of COVID: Migrant Justice Struggles and the Insurrection of Subjugated Practices

Eloy Rivas-Sanchez, PhD
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Athabasca University and Adjunct Research Professor, Carleton University – Department of Sociology and Anthropology

As a consequence of the Covid-19 crisis, racialized undocumented immigrants living in Montreal have been subjected to an unprecedented crisis of social reproduction. Affected by unemployment, lack of institutional support, isolation, fear of deportation, and, some of them by illnesses associated to covid itself, those communities have been severely perturbed in their capacity to socially reproduce themselves and their families in Canada and abroad. In response to this situation, migrant justice organizations have been carrying out political mobilizations and creating grassroot networks of mutual aid aimed at overcoming such crisis. In the context of those struggles, a rhizomatic assemblage of political/ethical knowledges and inter-racial forms of solidarity have emerged. This presentation will discuss the extent to which the political work that has been carried out by racialized, undocumented diasporas from North Africa, Latin America, South Asia, East Europe and North America, in conjunction with the Canadian population, have the potentiality to unleash and resurrect subjugated political knowledges/practices which had been subjugated by the neoliberal era.

This presentation is based on 12 months of participant observation carried out while collaborating with the migrant Justice organization Solidarity Across Borders and undocumented migrant communities throughout the covid-19 crisis in Montreal.