skip to page contentYork University

Redefine the possible.

Prospective students

Current students

Faculty & staff



York crest








AK/SOCI3570 Racism and the Law


Class: Thursday 7:00-10:00 p.m.
Dr. Lorne Foster
Office: 262 Winters College
Office Hours: Thursday, 5:00 - 6:00 (or by appointment)

Course Description

This course examines critically theories and applications of law in reference to diverse minority groups. It  is divided into four distinct parts. The first part explores the nature of social differentiation in society in regard to ethnoracial and intergroup dynamics in everyday life, and will be triangulated around the key concepts of culture, social power and ideology. In the second part the focus will be on the relationship between ethnicity, race, gender and social class as they relate to the many dimensions of inequality and domination, resistance and collective empowerment, in Canada and beyond. In the third part of the course the emphasis will be on the structures and patterns of social action in Canada, related to the social forces of prejudice, stereotyping, discrimination and racism. In the fourth part, some to the important contemporary diversity issues in racism and other-isms will be examined in the context of institutional structure and society. Topics will be drawn from the following: the state and immigration policy; immigrant incorporation; immigrants and minorities in the labour market; immigrant and minority youth; immigrants and minorities in electoral politics; and community building and mobilization.

Learning Outcomes

The focus of this course will be on the analytic and systematic comprehension of the social construction of race. The goal of the course is to make it possible for students to make some important connections among race, history and legal doctrine. Yet the task is not easy—reading about race and races requires us to think critically about the powerful and ingrained modes of thinking about and expressing racial ideas. Here are some critical questions that should guide your study of race:

1. MAKE THE IMPLICIT EXPLICIT. Look for the assumptions underlying discussions about race and state them. Many implicit assumptions, when articulated to the world, demonstrate their own inadequacy. Is one racial group being privileged over another? What unstated assumptions about gender, sexual orientation, wealth, or physical ability are part of discussions about race?

2. LOOK FOR THE HIDDEN NORM. What perspective is being universalized as the perspective for all people? Is that view really representative and objective? Is "the way things are" being used to perpetuate oppression?

3. AVOID WE/THEY THINKING. In a country based on the ideal of democratic inclusion, consider whether race is being used to foster that inclusion. We/they thinking is usually designed to render some group outside the polis. Who is defining the included "we" and for what purpose?

4. REMEMBER CONTEXT. People do not live in the abstract; they live situated lives. Examining the context in which a problem arises may reveal levels of unsuspected complexity, but will also avoid facile solutions that fall into the traps listed above.

5. SEEK JUSTICE. Be skeptical of traditional arguments to avoid change such as "the slippery slope," or “the intent of the framers/Fathers of Confederation/and the like” (who excluded from voting representation Indians, women, and African Canadians), or reliance on discriminatory precedent. Ask the question, "What is a just result that fosters democratic inclusion?"

6. CONSIDER THE NATURE OF THE HARM Is it minimal or serious? Whose characterization is being given credibility? Be sure to listen to the voices of those most harmed.

7. TRUST YOUR INTUITION. Trina Grillo wrote: "[We must believe what our bodies tell us. They teach us to check for the deep, internal discomfort we feel when something is being stated as gospel but does not match our truth. Then they teach us how to spin that feeling out, to analyze it, to accept that it is true but to be able to show why that is so. They also teach us to be brave." Trina Grillo, Anti—Essentialism and Intersectionality: Tools to Dismantle the Master's House, 10 Berkeley Women's L.J. 16, 22 (1995)

8. ASK, WHO BENEFITS? Practices, rules, and legal doctrines often benefit one group (usually the majority) at the expense of another. Ask yourself, why was this rule adopted and who benefits from its observance? If a rule turns out to be unfair, what prevents us from changing it?

Class Procedure

The class procedure involves lectures, interactive discussion of the readings, occasional audio visual presentations and student presentations. Students are expected to attend classes with reading assignments completed in order to facilitate class discussions. Additional materials relevant to the topic readings will be introduced as lecture material.

Required Texts

Fleras, Augie, Jean Leonard Elliott
2003    Unequal Relations: An Introduction to Race and Ethnic Dynamics in Canada. Fifth Edition. Scarborough, Ontario: Prentice Hall Canada. ISBN 0-13-096865

Fleras, Augie
2005    Social Problems In Canada: Conditions, Constructions, and Challenges. Fourth Edition. Toronto, Ontario: Prentice Hall Canada. ISBN 0-13-143367-9

Evaluations and Assignments

Each student’s performance will be evaluated as follows:

Class participation (this means class attendance and discussion)


In-class test (October 26)


In-class test (November 29)


Essay (March 15)


Final Exam (In-Class on last session)


Note*: The instructor reserves the right to make changes to this course outline after consultation with the full class.

Topic and Reading Outline

First Term

September 7

Distribution of Course Outline and Introductions.

September 14

Social Problems in Canada, ch. 2 – The Structures of Inequality (pp. 31-52) {Dynamics of “”Racism and Other-isms”} Presentation: Jatinder Virdi and Vikiamjeet Aujla

September 21

Social Problems in Canada, ch.2 – The Structures of Inequality (pp. 52 - 66)

September 28

Unequal Relations, ch. 4 – The Ethnicity Experience. Presentation: Rainie Chauhan, Lindsay Batangan and Karla Doradea

October 5

Unequal Relations, ch. 2 - The Politics of Race. Presentation: Alicia Khargie, Sobiva Ali, Karla Handaall and Mohamed Quraisi

October 12

Social Problems in Canada, ch. 3 - Prejudice, Discrimination, Racism. Presentation: Zahran Kahn, Mudehwe Gift Warayi, Damien Grant and Nina Dhawan

October 19

In-class Test

October 26

Unequal Relations, ch.9 – Canada-Building: Multicultural Minorities, Immigration, and Settlement. Presentation: Kamerine Dimaano, Simne Ross, Janelle Harawood and Schantel Spencer

November 2

Social Problems in Canada, ch.13 - Immigration and Multiculturalism. Presentation: Ashmani Boodnarine, Danielle Blackwood and Aimee Dionisio

November 9

Unequal Relations, ch. 10 - Multiculturalism and Canada: “Living Together with Differences”. Presentation: Diane Tomassi, Jessica Bonnici and Maria Bava

November 15

Unequal Relations, ch.11 – Institutional Inclusiveness: Putting Multiculturalism to Work. Presentation: Jasmine Puri and Chandan Dulku

November 22

Social Problems in Canada, ch. 5 - Crime and Control (pp. 136 -148 {Criminal Justice}). Presentation: Jason Lee, Waveney Archer, Jason Reis and Sherley Navyon

November 29

In-class Test


Second Term

January 4

Introduction to the institutional structures of “Racism and Other-isms”.  Return Exams

January 12

Film: Blue Eyes – Jane Elliott explores the overt and covert dimensions of racism

January 19

Social Problems in Canada, ch. 5 - Crime and Control (pp. 148 -165). Presentation: Kamani Malhotra, Mandeep Sandhu and Vi Phan

January 26

Social Problems in Canada, ch. 4 - Gender Relations (pp.101 - 118{Gender Inequality}). Presentation: Curlena Jackson, Sheila Scarlett, Jennifer Tavares and Magda Rogonka


Social Problems in Canada, ch. 4 - Gender Relations {Gender Justice} (pp.118-132). Presentation: Sandeep Singh, Stacey Lymer, Kim Wosnick and Chantelle Noms

February 2

Unequal Relations, ch. 7 - Aboriginal Peoples: Rethinking the Relationship (Aboriginal Justice). Presentation: John Simone

February 9

Social Problems in Canada, ch. 11 - “Indian” Problems/Aboriginal Solutions. Presentation: Nichola Charles, Sabrina Kalemkiarian and Victoria Akinrinsa

February 16

Reading Week

February 23

Social Problems in Canada, ch.7 – Mainstream Media {Discourses In Defence of Ideology} (pp191 - 207). Presentation: Melissa Farias, Sharon Siriboe, Kiran Soni and Jenny To

March 1

Class Cancelled - Weather

March 8

Social Problems in Canada, ch.7 – Mainstream Media {Portraying Minorities} (pp. 208 - 219). Presentation: Adam Nagoda, Sancia Pinto, William Neadles and Zubin George

Social Problems in Canada, ch. 13 – Globalization and Global Problems (pp. 357 – 371). Presentation: Hesam Seyedi and Gopal Banerjee

March 15

Social Problems in Canada, ch. 13 – Globalization and Global Problems (pp. 371 – 393) Presentation: Chelsea Takaco, Anesha Tavleed, Roukaida Baceha and Diana Lall

March 22

Unequal Relations, ch.12 – This Adventure Called Canada. Presentation: Stacey Lymer, Hanada Mandani,  Karla Loor and Ashmani Boodnarine

March 29

Final Exam


Grading:  The grading scheme for the course conforms to the 9-point grading system used in undergraduate programs at York (e.g., A+ = 9, A = 8, B+ - 7, C+ = 5, etc.).  Assignments and tests* will bear either a letter grade designation or a corresponding number grade (e.g.  A+ = 90 to 100, A = 80 to 90, B+ = 75 to 79, etc.)  (For a full description of York grading system see the York University Undergraduate Calendar -

Students may take a limited number of courses for degree credit on an ungraded (pass/fail) basis. For full information on this option see Alternative Grading Option in the Sociology/Arts section of the Undergraduate Calendar:

Assignment Submission: Proper academic performance depends on students doing their work not only well, but on time.  Accordingly, assignments for this course must be received on the due date specified for the assignment.  Written assignments are to be handed in to the Course Instructor in person and and students must retain a computer copy.

Lateness Penalty: Assignments received later than the due date will be penalized one-half grade letter per day that the assignment is late. Exceptions to the lateness penalty for valid reasons such as illness, compassionate grounds, etc., may be entertained by the Course Instructor but will require supporting documentation (e.g., a doctor’s letter).

Missed Tests:  Students with a documented reason for missing a course test, such as illness, compassionate grounds, etc., which is confirmed by supporting documentation (e.g., doctor’s letter) may request accommodation from the Course Instructor. Accommodation will entail a make-up test on a date and time specified by the Course Instructor. Further extensions or accommodation will require students to submit a formal petition to the Faculty.


All students are expected to familiarize themselves with the following information, available on the Senate Committee on Curriculum & Academic Standards webpage (see Reports, Initiatives, Documents)  - 

  • York’s Academic Honesty Policy and Procedures/Academic Integrity Website
  • Ethics Review Process for research involving human participants 
  • Course requirement accommodation for students with disabilities, including physical, medical, systemic, learning and psychiatric disabilities
  • Student Conduct Standards
  • Religious Observance Accommodation