Institutional racism and white privilege run Keswick, Ontario.

Korean boy can only watch as others go to school (Globe and Mail, May 2, 2009):

Earlier this week, the boy’s father received a couriered letter from the York Region District School Board. It said the school’s principal, Catherine McGinley, was recommending the discipline committee mete out the harshest possible punishment when it meets on May 13. She asked that the 15-year-old be expelled not just from Keswick High, but from all schools in York region.

“It was horrible. It was a big shock,” the boy’s father said.

Yesterday afternoon, spokesman Ross Virgo said the board meant to retract that letter, that it was sent in error and that its contents were no longer valid. He said the case is being investigated further, and that the recommendation of expulsion is no longer in effect.

But no one had told the boy’s family, who were still mulling over the letter’s devastating implications late yesterday.

They said that they feel as though some combination of forces is trying to run them out of this rural, mostly white town, particularly in light of attacks on Asian fishermen in the nearby Lake Simcoe area in 2007.


His father said the school doesn’t seem to understand the impact of the racial comment. Afterward, a vice-principal asked his son why a Korean was upset about being called Chinese.

“Probably they don’t realize how much it hurts when someone makes a racist comment,” his father said. “My son said, ‘I felt all the way down, like I am nothing, on the floor. Like they’re the master and I’m the slave.’

His father said he will continue to fight for his son.

Maybe they’re trying to force me to move to another area, I don’t know … I’m not going to give up. If I give up, no other Asian can ever come here and feel safe.

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24 Responses to “Institutional racism and white privilege run Keswick, Ontario.”

  1. Nquest Says:

    How does a expulsion letter get sent out “in error”… like somebody drafted several different disciplinary letters and their secretary mailed the wrong one?

    And what the hell is a “consensual fight”… like the two boys shook hands, went to their respective corners and came out throwing punches recorded on the scorecard at ringside?

  2. Restructure! Says:

    There is more stupidity from the school administrators (May 1):

    [The mother] spoke to the school’s vice-principal about creating a special anti-racism curriculum, but was told that it wasn’t necessary because it’s taught in geography classes. She disagrees, citing the 2007 incidents of Asian fisherman being assaulted and harassed in the Lake Simcoe area close to Keswick.

    “This isn’t just kids fighting. The core of this is racism. That’s why I keep saying to the vice-principal, ‘What are you doing to educate these children?’ ” she said.

    But she feels the school’s administration is dismissing her concerns. She suggested a public apology by her son’s attacker would be a good start, but hasn’t heard whether it will happen.

    I’m so impressed by the whole family. The parents are immigrants, but instead of trying so hard to assimilate like most immigrants do, they are fighting for justice in Canada.

  3. Kellie Moon Says:

    The principal and vice principal of this high school have totally mishandled the case. Sadly they now have lost both credibilty and respect from their students. Because of their dumb actions, Keswick is now known as the “racist town”. The only way to restore the order and respectability from the students and the outside world is to fire both of them PERIOD. They really don’t belong in school system anywhere. They cannot possibly educate our kids….no, they are the one who need to be educated.

  4. Kathy Says:

    from the linked article:
    “The white student threw the first punch, hitting the 15-year-old in the mouth. The 15-year-old, a black belt in tae kwon do, threw a left-handed jab that broke the white student’s nose. The 15-year-old was the only one charged, which led to an outcry from the students at his school.”

    This type of racial abuse happens a lot, a kid in a local high school was repeatedly called an ethnic slur, he finally poured a bottle of ice tea over the head of the offending girl, her parents actuallly filed child abuse charges against him, even though she was two years older than him, he got suspended, she got nothing. I bet a million dollars that the boy in this case was racially abused repeatedly and teachers/administrators ignored it. Yes, I agree with Kellie Moon, fire the Principal and the Vice-Principal, that would feel really good, maybe then the Education System would start thinking about how they do not provide a safe environment for those they hold power over, their students.
    And remember, the white kid not only racially abused the Korean kid, HE THREW THE FIRST PUNCH. sorry for shouting.

  5. Ruby Says:

    Shame on the Principal and the Vice-Principal of the School.
    They should both be fired inmediatelly!
    I agree with the previous posters!

  6. Nathan Says:


    I really wish school authorities took things like that into account.

    Once gave a much larger student a return belt, and was lucky to have a sympathetic teacher (because of the size difference), who refused to interview me, so as not to be obliged to admit that I punched back and thus merited an instant suspension according to school rules.

    Apart from that, totally agree with NQuest, how in the hell do you send out a letter like that ‘in error’?

    I can’t imagine how much more clear-cut the causes of the fight need to be for the administrators to take action. Good on the family of the kid all round for sticking up and making a fight of this, too. That kid should be proud of them, and those parents should be proud of their kid.

  7. Maysie Says:

    The young man and his parents have been remarkably calm and reasonable in the face of continued and ongoing racism. Far more calm than any of the bullies deserve. And that’s individual and institutional bullies. Please note that the entire school had a rally last Monday in support of the young man, and were clear they were against racism and against bullying. The high school students know what’s going on. Yes, fire the administrators, including whoever at the school board decided to send that letter.

  8. Alston Says:

    Ohhhh shit…

    Listen. These people will deny that there is a problem no matter what evidence you put in front of them. They will deny it with their last breath.

    “She spoke to the school’s vice-principal about creating a special anti-racism curriculum, but was told that it wasn’t necessary because it’s taught in geography classes.”

    I am not sure why anti-racism material would be taught in geography. It strongly suggests that these people do not take this stuff at all seriously.

    I regret not having the strength (and martial arts training) that this kid has when I was his age. I was asked to discuss my experiences with racism in my small white Ontario city in front of the school board when I was 16. They were looking into providing an anti-racism curriculum. At the end of my testimony, the then-matriarch of the school board formally dismissed everything I said about what had happened to me, saying that it didn’t happen, and that it couldn’t happen there in Brockville, Ontario. I’ll never forget that. And the worst thing? I let it go. I was about to graduate and leave that fucking city forever, anyway.

    If I ever go back there to live, I will make damn sure that those people own up to their bullshit.

    Why isn’t the bully being investigated? Shouldn’t there be a punishment regardless of whether or not it was a hate crime?

    I cannot express how impressed I am with the students that protested for one of their own. It moves me greatly. I wonder what the rest of the staff think of this.

  9. Restructure! Says:

    Okay, I changed the title from “Institutional racism and white privilege pervade Keswick, Ontario” to “Institutional racism and white privilege run Keswick, Ontario.” I don’t want to diminish the efforts of the student protesters, who are a breath of fresh air. If anyone has suggestions so that it doesn’t reduce Keswick to “the racist town”, let me know. I just don’t trust the authority figures there, like the police and the school administrators, and whatever culture there that promotes the idea that anti-racism is taught in geography class.

    When I was young, I thought that the racist adults (e.g., the teachers) would die off by the time I became an adult. This didn’t happen, and I realize now that it doesn’t work like that.

    @Alston: Wow. I hate those people, people who are in positions of authority and think that their social standing makes them an expert on everything.

  10. Andy Chan Says:

    Here is an old fashion method to deal with old racist attitudes. Ask all the members of this group to send old fashion Canada Post letters to the following people.
    1.) Principle Catherine Elizabeth McGinley of Keswick HighSchool at the school and her home address. I won’t post her home address, however if you do a public information search you will be able to find her home address easily. (Note that I’ve discovered her middle name as Elizabeth using a few simply public information database searches. This information is not listed in the Globe and Mail news article).

    I will however post the school’s address:

    100 Biscayne Blvd.
    Keswick, Ontario L4P 3L5
    Phone: (905) 476-0933
    Fax: (905) 476-0929

    2.) Mayor Robert Grossi – Mayor
    Civic Centre:
    905/289 Area – (905) 476-4301 / (905) 722-6516
    705 Area – (705) 437-2210
    Ext. 215
    Fax: (905) 476-1475

    3. School Trustee – Nancy Elgie
    60 Wellington Street W., Box 40
    Aurora, Ontario L4G 3H2

    Tel: (905) 476-4184

    When you receive emails in today’s world, you tend to disregard them. Too easy to hit delete. However when you physically receive 800 plus letters via Canada Post, it is much harder to ignore. As well send faxes. When you come into work and you have hundreds of faxes, that also sends a message.

    To everyone who is a member of this group, I implore you to send a message to everyone listed above. When they receive well written messages from hundreds of people, (hopefully growing to thousands), the media pressure will be tremendous. The school board will have no choice but to apologize and Catherine Elizabeth McGinley will receive a slap on the wrist to remind her to use common sense.

  11. Ruby Says:

    Andy Chan Says:
    May 5, 2009 at 1:23 am

    Mr Chan : Thank you for the addresses!
    You are right we should all write now

    Alston Says:
    May 4, 2009 at 9:02 am
    Mr Alston: thank you for sharing your experience with us!.

    I will write to all of them today!

  12. Karen MEG Says:

    Excellent idea for the mail campaign!

  13. Lxy Says:

    What will be really interesting in this case are the damage control strategies that this town will use–if the controversy starts to blow up in their face and become a public relations liability.

    I bet they will trot out some “diversity consultants” and start spouting the usual propaganda rhetoric about “celebrating multiculturalism” and “racial harmony.”

    Maybe, have an ethnic food festival or two in the future and promote some minority to a position of symbolic power on some (cough) human rights commission.

    Worst of all, however, is that most people will happily swallow these public relations scams and go back to political sleep … until the next “incident” happens, and the process will be repeated once again.

  14. Racism victim, Asian, must appear in court. Racist aggressor, white, not charged. « Restructure! Says:

    […] Institutional racism and white privilege run Keswick, Ontario. […]

  15. Kathy Says:

    Lyx, totally agree, an ethnic food festival is heading their way.

  16. Everybody Was Kung Fu Fighting, Part 2 « P i l l o w b o o k Says:

    […] give these particular immigrant parents credit, the mom pushed for anti-racist curriculum at the school. She was rebuffed. In small, otherwise homogeneous towns, immigrant Asians may be isolated from […]

  17. asianmale Says:

    I just found out about this story today in the Sun and I have to say that I am horrified.

    Being a 35 yo professional, I forgot about the racist bullying that goes on, must have been wishful thinking.

    Yes, it affected me as a child. Living in Markham now, I forget just how insulated I am from racism in a region with an abundance of visible minorities.

    I was considering Keswick / Bradford as a home… No longer… I am going to keep my family and my newborn son far away from these backwater towns with < 1% visible minorities thank you very much.

  18. redmond Says:

    YEAHHHHHHHHHHH!! yessss Asians

  19. mishamoto sasaku! Says:

    BE a man and do the right thing..

  20. ming Says:

    well done! thanks for the address

  21. tourist Says:

    I was going to visit Keswick on Saturday as a day trip, but upon searching for things to do in Keswick, I instead found so may entries about the school and the racism incidents. I have now changed my mind and will go elsewhere instead No Korean deserves to be treated this way! And I’m white.

  22. AJ Says:

    Why is this automatically about racism?

    Two kids were fighting and one caused serious damage. No matter if somoene called you a racist name in the first place, if you cause significant damage to another student you are considered dangerous and get in a lot of trouble.

    A lot of kids get into fights for far worse reasons – but not too many break another kids nose in the process.

  23. Canadian Kuffar Says:

    As one who grew up in Keswick, (Irene Dr.) to be specific..I think the outside opinions of those here to be irrelevant..This is nothing more than two kids who got into a fist fight…Period..Did they call each other names, uh, yeah probably..That’s what kids do..Were they racial in tone, yes..Kids do that too…But to turn this into something deserving of the U.N. interferring, I mean really, get a hold of yourselves. Keswick may be a predominately “white” town, but bringing up a fist fight between two boys certainly does not go to show that it is a “racist” town.

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