University decolonization activists are musing about whether people need to “die off” for Canada to achieve equity.

At a Monday talk on decolonization hosted by the University of Alberta’s “Anti-Racism Lab,” an audience member asked panelists the macabre question.

“I’m referring to the mentality, so the fact that we’re still here after the Civil Rights Movement, the Holocaust. Like at what point in my head I’m wondering, do people have to die off before we get to this place of the narrative? The narrative has to change, right? At some point with white folks, right? When does colonization filter out? Or does it continue to just be generational?” asked the audience member. 

Malinda Smith, the vice-provost of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the University of Calgary responded by saying it was a ”very good question” before delving into various laws that promote equity in Canada. 

“In a way it attends to why employment equity hasn’t been as effective as it had the potential to be. You see within this current moment, with the pushback against the kinds of gains of the women’s movement, including, for example, reproductive rights,” explained Smith.

“You see the pushback against the civil rights movements and efforts to reconceptualize the idea of race, to make the rebrand, to bring in scientific racism back, to bring in a commitment to eugenics back, you see the ways of which critical race theory, intersectionality are all being rearticulated as kind of woke.”

During the talk, Smith also said merit in academia was a form of “whiteness” and mentioned the case of former Harvard president Claudine Gay who left her position after reports that she had plagiarized in her academic work. 

“White students are rightfully presented as being allowed to believe in their own merit while at the same time denying the meritorious potential of anyone unlike them, particularly those who are members of racially minoritized groups,” claimed Smith. 

“This means then that merit is almost always a concept that sticks to whiteness and anyone else who, whether you think of the recent case of Claudine Gay at Harvard, a distinguished scholar at Harvard, who got tagged with the label of a diversity hire, so no matter what you achieve, you are by virtue of your racial markers, the skin that we are in, so to speak, not meritorious.”

Gay received public pushback after she refused to condemn antisemitism at Harvard and faced calls from the university’s donors to have her removed from the position.  

Recent research by the Aristotle Foundation for Public Policy, authored by social scientist David Millard Haskell from Wilfrid Laurier University, revealed that diversity, equity and inclusion policies actually led to more bigotry in academia. 

Proponents of DEI training often assert its efficacy without sufficient empirical evidence to support their claims,” Haskell said.

“However, there’s clear empirical evidence that certain aspects of DEI instruction lead to greater prejudice and even harm.”