Immigration, Race, and Language: Black Francophones of Ontario and the Challenges of Integration, Racism, and Language Discrimination

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By: Amal Madibbo
Date: 2005

This working paper by Amal Madibbo, the 38th in the CERIS series, includes sections on the contemporary context and theoretical perspectives of antiracism and black feminism, as well as a good explanation of the social construction of race, gender and language as categories of analysis. The historical information on the migration patterns of Haitian and Sub-Saharan African newcomers, including the internal migration within Canada illuminates a relatively unknown subject area. The experience of the Black Francophone community in terms of the dynamics of racism within society, including in mainstream Francophone social service agencies, is particularly well explored. The abstract and conclusion are provided here. For the complete research report click here.

Immigration, Race, and Language: Black Francophones of Ontario and the Challenges of Integration, Racism, and Language Discrimination


This paper examines the challenges of integration faced by Black Francophone African and Haitian immigrants who live in Ontario and who constitute a racial minority situated within the Francophone official linguistic minority. These challenges are manifested by institutional racism coming from State and Francophone mainstream institutions and by language discrimination coming from the predominantly Anglophone society. This paper also looks at the socio-historical context of the migration of Black Francophones to Canada and provides a profile of this populace in Ontario. It brings together an Antiracism perspective and la Francophonie. By identifying what it means to be a double – racial and official linguistic – minority in Ontario, this paper stresses the need to implement additional policies that would better target the full socio-economic integration of these minorities.

Concluding Remarks: Black Francophones Caught Between The State And Francophone Communities

The previous sections have identified the various forms of racism Black Francophones have experienced at the hands of both the State and mainstream Francophone institutions. Based on the analyses made in these sections, we can identify the situation of Black Francophones as follows: most Black Francophones have chosen to live within Francophone communities which constitute an official linguistic minority. As a result of many factors, including the marginalization they face within these communities, Black Francophones have established separate organizations and associations. They also have faced various forms of State racism. While this population is situated as a racial minority within a linguistic minority, the mainstream component of the linguistic minority often has excluded its members from full participation in the life of the community. Furthermore, within the Black Francophone community, there is a widespread belief that State does not treat white and Black Francophones equitably. These observations suggest that when Blacks are part of a linguistic minority, which includes whites, the privilege attached to whiteness often places Blacks in a secondary position to whites. Under such circumstances, they will seldom not be properly recognized as being equal in importance to whites.

In addition, there are similarities in the outcomes produced by State racism and the racism of Franco- Ontarian organizations in terms of the under-representation of Black Francophones in positions of authority, their under-employment, and the non-recognition of their credentials. These similarities allow us to contend that white Francophones cannot be said to be exerting a “new” form of racism with respect to Black Francophones; rather, they can be said to be reproducing the same type of discrimination that often has resulted from State policies. From the evidence presented in this study, the two white majorities in Canada, Anglophone and Francophone, are perceived by many Black Francophones to be powerful and dominant allies in the State. Black Francophones, therefore, often find themselves situated in a complex and uncomfortanble position between the State and the Francophone mainstream community.

This work also has drawn our attention to an important focal point. Some forms of racism that Black Francophones presently face were experienced by their Anglophone counterparts years ago. These practices include, for example, the under-representation of Blacks in positions of power in State and other mainstream institutions (see The Nation Council of Barbadian Associations 1991). The fact that Black Francophones are facing systemic barriers that other racialized groups experienced in the past reveals that racism is not only ongoing; it is also being re-produced. Unfortunately, the patterns of racism faced by Black Francophones are not being appropriately documented. We also have to acknowledge that the condition of Black Francophones has not been adequately addressed in the antiracism discourse. The double minority situation that Black Francophones face is of such a nature that the racism they encounter often is also invisible to their Anglophone counterparts. It took Black Anglophones long years of struggle to overcome some of the systemic barriers they encountered; it should not have to take their Francophone counterparts as long to achieve similar results. Nevertheless, reaching that goal will be a challenge for the State through its policies, for those engaged in the Antiracism struggle, and for Black Francophones themselves.

Finally, the mere recognition of these barriers should not be taken to mean that the members of Ontario’s Black Francophone community are helpless, perpetual victims. This study has pointed to numerous cases of resistance by Black Francophones concerning structures within both State and Francophone mainstream institutions. A fuller account is beyond the scope of this paper.5 The very fact that Black Francophones have chosen to contest certain situations, such as the use of the ape postcard, serves to underscore the need to establish a more inclusive Francophonie within the just society known as Canada.

This report is available for download in Adobe Acrobat PDF format (1.1 Mb, 53 pages).