Anti-Semitism in Canadian Schools? Blame Critical Race Theory

A boy of 14, wearing a shirt with a Star of David, is followed through a Canadian high school. A dozen girls, wearing Palestinian headscarves and face paint, scream “Free Palestine!” as they follow him to the cafeteria, Hamas flags aloft.

We’ll call the boy “David,” though it’s not his real name. His mother, who told me the story, is terrified of reprisal, even as she begs the principal to take useful action. It’s not the first incident for David, and it’s part of a pattern of anti-Jewish violence that appears to be tacitly encouraged by the authorities.

When I say that anti-Jewish violence is “tacitly encouraged,” I mean what progressives mean when they talk about “systemic discrimination.” We’ve allowed an idea into our schools and society that makes violence inevitable: Canadian Jews are its first target, but will not be its last.

Since the Hamas attack on Israel last October, we’ve seen an increase in anti-Jewish violence. We’ve seen bullets fired at Jewish schools. We’ve seen Nazi salutes and swastikas. We hear about Jewish teachers in fear for their lives, let alone their careers. They name their union and some principals as part of the problem. Intimidation and attacks at universities seem routine. B.C. Premier David Eby talked about reports he has received about anti-Semitic remarks by teachers. Canadian Jewish business leaders are starting to flee the country. Between the lack of official response and new regulations preventing the production of kosher meats, one Jewish organization wonders out loud if Canada is trying to drive Jews out.

It is true that some authorities are trying to rectify the situation. Eby has made positive noises. Ontario’s Education Minister Stephen Lecce has told the Peel District School Board not to add Nakba—a holiday that frames the establishment of Israel as a “disaster”—to their calendar. However, none of this gets to the root issue.

The root issue is a cut-rate version of critical race theory (CRT). CRT can be a useful philosophical tool in professional ethics, where it helps social workers and lawyers not to accidentally duplicate oppressive social structures. Unfortunately, that is not the version of CRT that gets into teachers’ colleges, and into schools.

Cut-rate CRT, applied through diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs, divides the world up into oppressor groups and oppressed groups. In its simplified moral compass, oppressed groups are “good” and oppressors “bad.” All one needs to do to justify public funds or privileges for a group is to label them “oppressed.” And in the spirit of Herbert Marcuse’s ideal of “repressive tolerance,” one can justify any restraint on a group’s liberty by designating it as an “oppressor.”

It would be asinine to portray Canada’s Jewish minority—historically subject to lethal Canadian intolerance—as oppressors. Columnist Warren Kinsella argues that the anti-Jewish protests are foreign-funded, an attempt to fight Middle Eastern wars on Canadian shores. The portrayal only has traction because the idiotic worldview of cut-rate CRT can say that because there are successful Jewish citizens and a successful Jewish state, Jews must be oppressors. CRT’s contribution would be risible if it were not for the misery that it has engendered.

Cut-rate CRT, in other words, causes systemic discrimination. As a worldview, it is obviously not true and obviously not helpful. It is used as a justification for widespread violence. So why is it being encouraged in our schools?

The answer is that we don’t become interested in theories because they are true but because they are useful. For teachers’ unions and ambitious academics, cut-rate CRT is far more useful than the philosophical kind. The fact that it allows you to designate almost any group as an oppressor, and any other group as oppressed, is a feature, rather than a fatal flaw. It’s a tool that can lead to power.

The interest in power sometimes seems overwhelming. In 2022, the Ontario Secondary School Teacher’s Federation endorsed 88 candidates and elected 52, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process. The Alberta Teachers’ Association has announced open defiance of the provincial government and an aggressive campaign for school board seats that includes funding allied activist groups. Billions of education budget dollars are at stake.

By endorsing some groups as “oppressed,” the management of a teachers’ union can direct money to activist groups that are beholden to it. By labelling others as oppressors, the organization can remove funding and power from those who oppose it, gaining more power. You don’t even have to have actual minorities on the board. It is true on a smaller scale, too: internal challengers could be easily labelled and defeated, especially when existing management controls the election process. It’s the ultimate tool of elite competition.

Unfortunately, the effects of cut-rate CRT extend beyond elite competition. As the story of David and Canada’s Jewish minority shows, its side effects are dangerous—and potentially deadly. That’s why some U.S. states have gone so far as to ban CRT in schools—and we need to consider something like it north of the border.

David, at least, will thank us.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


John Hilton-O’Brien is the Executive Director of Parents for Choice in Education,

This article originally appeared in the Epoch Times on May 10th, 2024. A printable pdf is available.