News | Culture Shock workshop addresses systemic racism

McGill students must educate themselves on racial discrimination

On November 9th, QPIRG McGill hosted an “Anti-Racism 101” workshop as part of their Culture Shock event series. The series ran from November 7th to November 12th and dealt with issues such as anti-racism, migrant justice, and Indigenous solidarity. The anti-racism workshop was moderated by Vincent Mousseau, a community organizer and activist for groups such as Montreal Noir, Pervers/Cité, and RÉZO. Mousseau is currently studying Social Work at McGill.

Distinguishing racism and racial discrimination

The workshop began with a discussion about the difference between racial discrimination and racism. Mousseau defined racial discrimination as “discrimination based on aspects such as race and skin colour, which is a manifestation of prejudice.” They noted that “prejudice is the idea, and discrimination is acting upon that idea.” They also stressed that “anyone can be discriminatory towards anyone of any other group; [however], racism is understood as the systemic institutionalization of these prejudices. This is present everywhere…I live in fear of my life and I think of these things consistently.”

Mousseau continued by discussing their own experiences with racism, citing one of their first experiences at McGill. “When I got to McGill the first thing I did was buy a McGill lanyard, a McGill hoodie, and I kept my student card in the front of my wallet.”

“The reason for this is I have not worn a hoodie since Trayvon Martin died. I am terrified of what any interaction with the Montreal police can look like for me in this way. And I know that, as unfortunate as it is…it is more unacceptable to kill a McGill student than it is to kill a Black person.”

“As unfortunate as it is…it is more unacceptable to kill a McGill student than it is to kill a Black person.”

Violence against Indigenous populations

Mousseau discussed Indigenous residential schools as an example of racialized violence. “As Sir John A. MacDonald…said, this was the attempt to ‘kill the Indian in the child.’” Mousseau also spoke of the Sixties Scoop, “where social workers actively targeted Indigenous communities, found the smallest reason to pull children from their homes, and adopted them into white families.”

“A person that I adore and respect, Nakuset, who is the Executive Director of the Native Women’s Shelter in Montreal, was taken from her community and adopted into a Jewish family in Montreal and was told that she was brown because she was from Israel. That’s the reality of her life. She had to go through trying to understand that and go through these aspects of racialization.”

“We are on stolen land…the reason why we are here as settlers, irrespective of our issues of racialization, is because of the inherent violence that was committed against Indigenous populations, this act of cultural genocide being one of them.”

“We are on stolen land…the reason why we are here as settlers, irrespective of our issues of racialization, is because of the inherent violence that was committed against Indigenous populations, this act of cultural genocide being one of them.”

SSMU closure unveiling racism and disregard on campus

When asked about systemic racism at McGill, Mousseau talked about the SSMU building closure and the effect that it is having on student groups. For example, the Muslim Students’ Association will no longer have a space to pray. “When SSMU tells folks, ‘Oh, oops, surprise! Your building is being shut down,’ [and] there is a prayer space so many students on our campus rely on [that is] being taken away from them, that’s an issue.”

Mousseau also talked about the importance of SSMU as a space for marginalized groups to organize. “[Soon] there [will] no longer [be a] specific hub [for] Black queer [people]. [Right now] you can walk between Queer McGill and the Black Student Network in order to try to organize something. That is a barrier to making sure that our services are represented. This is just an example of some of the violence that exists against racialized folks at McGill. It’s often times coming from a place like ‘we didn’t even think about it that way.’”

“I try to give this workshop in order to try to raise consciousness on these issues and try to force people trying to organizing on campus to think more about the [role] racism plays in their organizing.”

Educate yourself

An anonymous participant added to the conversation, “You need to call out your white friends for their racism. Direct them to specific resources. Educate yourself. You can not surround yourself with people of colour for the sole purpose of having them educate you. Do your own educating.”


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