York University launches first-of-its-kind initiative to address barriers for Black youth across Canada


National pan-university program backed by $1.2 million from RBC Foundation as part of RBC Future Launch

TORONTO, Oct. 5, 2021 – York University is launching a three-year initiative to enhance the representation of Black youth at universities across Canada by supporting upper-year high school students as they plan for their future such as pursuing post-secondary education or work — and aiding in the transition and retention of those who pursue university. The initiative is led by Professor Carl James, York University’s Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community and Diaspora in the Faculty of Education. James has focused on addressing systemic barriers and racial inequities for over a decade and a recent $1.2-million donation from the RBC Foundation, as part of RBC Future Launch, is allowing this work to go national.

“We’re starting to see some attention to streaming — the process of placing students into academic or non-academic oriented classes based on their assumed intellectual abilities. The Ontario government’s announcement about ending academic streaming starting with the Grade 9 math curriculum this September as well as a ban on suspending young students is an okay start. However, we have a long way to go. Black students across Canada continue to report racial inequities and experience barriers in the education system,” says James, whose 2017 groundbreaking research revealed Black students are being disproportionately streamed away from academic programs and suspended at significantly higher rates than white or other racialized students. The report, Towards Race Equity in Education: The schooling of Black students in the Greater Toronto Area, used data to show poor outcomes for Black students and that current students were experiencing worse outcomes than their parents and grandparents.

James is bringing together Kevin Hewitt, Physics Professor from Dalhousie University; Juliet Daniel, Associate Dean of Research from McMaster University; Jennifer Adams, Canada Research Chair in Creativity & STEM and Associate Professor from University of Calgary; and Annette Henry, Professor, Language and Literacy Education from University of British Columbia, who share a commitment to addressing the educational issues of Black youth to further the systemic anti-Black racism work of individual institutions, including interventions and research. The research component will build on existing Canadian census data with a longitudinal study of grade 11 and 12 students over a three-year period, informing the development of new community-based and student-support programs, and will for the first time facilitate the sharing of documentation and data across Canadian universities — allowing for geographical and contextual comparisons to be made. For example, James is particularly interested in the experience of second-and-third generation Black students and how the impact of generational status compares between Toronto and Halifax.

In 2020, RBC announced actions to address the inequity and systemic bias that have disadvantaged Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) individuals and youth. As part of this commitment, RBC committed to providing $50 million in focused funding through RBC Future Launch to create meaningful and transformative pathways to prosperity for 25,000 BIPOC youth by 2025.

“Ensuring that Black students have equitable access to opportunity is critical to building strong, inclusive communities,” says Mark Beckles, Vice-President, Social Impact & Innovation, RBC. “We are working closely with our partners, including many BIPOC-serving organizations, to enable access. RBC’s support of the now national work of the Jean Augustine Chair will help to ensure that present and future generations of Black talent can reach their fullest potential.”

The initiative will kick off on Oct. 6 with a national conversation hosted by York and the RBC Student Success Initiative and Data Hub.

WHAT: Securing Black Futures: A National Partnership to Advance Youth Academic & Career Success

WHERE: This event will be livestreamed via YouTube here. Questions can be submitted in advance to yuevent@yorku.ca.

WHEN: Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, at 7 p.m.

About York University

York University is a modern, multi-campus, urban university located in Toronto, Ontario. Backed by a diverse group of students, faculty, staff, alumni and partners, we bring a uniquely global perspective to help solve societal challenges, drive positive change and prepare our students for success. York's fully bilingual Glendon Campus is home to Southern Ontario's Centre of Excellence for French Language and Bilingual Postsecondary Education. York’s campuses in Costa Rica and India offer students exceptional transnational learning opportunities and innovative programs. Together, we can make things right for our communities, our planet, and our future. 

Media contact: Kayla Lewis, York University Media Relations, cell 416-455-4710, lewiskay@yorku.ca