"We had no desire to be set apart": Forced Segregation of Black Students in Canada West Public Schools and Myths of British Egalitarianism


  • Kristin McLaren


The practice of school segregation in mid-nineteenth-century Canada West defied popular images of the province as a guardian of British moral and egalitarian ideals. African Canadians in Canada West found themselves excluded from public education or forced into segregation, practices that were against the spirit if not the letter of British and Canadian law. Education laws were changed to accommodate racism, while guardians of the education system tolerated illegal discriminatory practices. A number of historians have described the emergence of segregated racial schools in Canada West as a response to requests by black people to be separate; however, historical evidence contradicts this assertion. African Canadians in the mid-nineteenth century fought against segregation and refused to be set apart. Numerous petitions to the Education Department complained of exclusion from common schools and expressed desires for integration, not segregation. When black people did open their own schools, children of all ethnic backgrounds were welcome in these institutions.