Memorial University policy endorses racial discrimination

Brian Jones
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The administration at Memorial University apparently thinks it’s OK to discriminate against white people.

A MUN news release distributed Wednesday was headlined, “Seats for aboriginal students at Memorial University protected by provincial human rights commission.”

Affirmative action is a racially based policy that became ascendant in the 1970s and has largely refused to go away, even though some more enlightened states — such as California and Sweden — have banned it.

The MUN release declares, “Memorial has reserved 1-3 seats or will have reserved 1-3 seats for aboriginal students enrolling in undergraduate programs in police studies, kinesiology, recreation, physical education, business administration, international business administration, nursing, medicine and commerce and graduate programs in public health and business administration on the St. John’s campus.”

Aboriginal applicants also have, or will have, reserved seats in several academic programs at the Marine Institute and at Memorial’s Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook.

The news release craftily avoids using the phrase “affirmative action” or the word “white.” Purveyors of affirmative action long ago learned to replace “white” with the euphemistic “European descent,” but such Orwellian language usage is irrelevant — MUN’s policy will also discriminate against people whose ethnicity is Asian, Latino, black, oriental or Arabic.

So, yes, my earlier use of the phrase “discriminate against white people” is intentionally sensationalistic — and it’s intended to taunt those who predictably and vehemently insist any opposition to affirmative action is automatically “racist.”

If Memorial University were so confident its affirmative action policy is legitimate and defendable on its own merits, there would be no need to exempt it from a legal challenge.

But that’s exactly what MUN has done.

“Memorial University’s Aboriginal Designated Seats Program has been granted special status by the Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission,” MUN’s news release states. “The special status protects existing designated seats and the program itself from any challenges.”

In other words, any applicant who is discriminated against on the basis of not being aboriginal is prevented from filing a complaint with the province’s human rights commission.

Keep up the good work.

It would be better, and more honest, if proponents of affirmative action would say, “We are willing to discriminate in order to reach a worthy goal.”

To which opponents could reply, “We agree the goal is worthy, but it is unjust to try to reach it by discriminating against others.”

The usual catchphrase to describe this scenario is “reverse discrimination.”

Should aboriginal people be encouraged to attend Memorial University? Yes.

Would it be good if more aboriginal people graduated from Memorial University? Yes. Should any individual of another ethnicity be denied enrolment in Memorial University because a certain number of seats are set aside for aboriginal applicants? No.

This is where affirmative action is flawed. Its ends are admirable, but its methods are reprehensible.

It is a policy that appears just and can be defended in a broad social scope, based on statistics, but when it is examined on an individual basis — how it affects real people — the injustice of it becomes clear.

For instance, two applicants apply for med school. Their grade point averages are excellent, and equal. Their qualifications are the same in every respect. One applicant is aboriginal; the other is not. Selecting either one over the other based on ethnicity is, by definition, racist.

Flipping a coin would be more fair than selecting the aboriginal applicant merely because he, or she, is aboriginal.

If affirmative action were inherently right and just, MUN wouldn’t need to seek an exemption for its program from the human rights commission.


Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at



Organizations: Marine Institute, Newfoundland and Labrador Human Rights Commission, The Telegram

Geographic location: California, Sweden

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Recent comments

  • Jean Bishop
    April 24, 2014 - 09:06

    Your article clearly demonstrates your complete ignorance about issues of systemic discrimination, equality and human rights.

  • River van der Goot
    November 07, 2012 - 14:58

    This is stupid.

  • Just a girl
    March 30, 2012 - 23:15

    Fire Brian Jones. If he can't get this simple story right, what else has he manged up? Seriously, I don't want this hate in my paper. Matter of fact, full boycott on your paper until this hate monger disappears.

  • robert Nelder
    March 30, 2012 - 22:26

    This is racist and unworthy of the Telegram.

  • Doug Smith
    March 30, 2012 - 19:10

    Mr. Jones, Memorial, setting aside places exclusively for aboriginal students is the least this province could do for this segment of our population. As has been documented in a number of studies, aboriginal people are not doing so well in Canada or in our province. Remember, the Beothucks were subjected to such severe genocide by our European forefathers there is now no Beothuck descendants to go to Memorial. It is also interesting to note that currently Dalhousie University, has set aside 10 places for NL students interested in physiotherapy and 8 places in occupational therapy. I don’t remember you complaining about that. Mr. Jones , this is a case, where if you can’t say something good, don’t say anything at all, might have been the wiser choice. Doug Smith, GFW

  • Alex
    March 30, 2012 - 18:17

    The previous comments are all on point. The author shows great ignorance of the long, and in some respects still ongoing, mistreatment of aboriginals in this country. If Memorial University takes a small step to help rectify that then good for them.

  • Myles MacLean
    March 30, 2012 - 15:53

    I think that the columnist showed a decided lack of good sense.Are there many Newfoundlanders as thick as he seems to be?Maybe he just got out of bed on the wrong side.He should still have his knuckles rapped.

  • tenacity tramp
    March 30, 2012 - 14:45

    This is one of the great myths of our times. Some Aboriginal students may be eligible for funding through their band council . However, all Aboriginal students pay tuition like any other student. I find this article by Brian Jones to be incredibly small minded. It is no wonder that falsehoods like `free tuition`` continue when the editorial board of the The Telegram thinks publishing bigoted rants is okay. One in eight Newfoundlanders are of Aboriginal descent. Inrpoving opprotunities for this traditionally disadvantated group helps us all.

    • Christopher Chafe
      March 30, 2012 - 16:15

      Perhaps the first step should be to educate us "white people". The second step is to destroy the status card and start paying HST on purchases.

    • Jane
      March 30, 2012 - 22:18

      I really expected better from the Telegram....Perpetuating this type of racism/ignorance is not good journalism. At The very least please ensure that you educate yourself on the history on the systemic racism. Looks bad on you.

  • John Jeddore
    March 30, 2012 - 14:24

    I am disgusted that the telegram published this column. I am more disgusted at the ignorance displayed by this 'desk editor'. Expect my letter to the editor shortly.

    • Erin
      March 30, 2012 - 17:16

      Journalism is supposed to present the facts, not take sides and Mr. Jones has clearly taken a side and it is not a very politically correct or educated one. This column sounds no different than the opinion pieces that are found on this discussion forum, and is not professional in the least. Did the editor even read this before it was published?

    • Vic
      March 31, 2012 - 08:50

      Erin, not that I agree with him, but Mr. Jones writes a column, not news articles. It's not intended to be journalism. Journalists are paid to be unbiased and present the facts; columnists publish their opinions. A column IS an opinion piece.

  • Frank Foo
    March 30, 2012 - 12:18

    When one group has been raped grossly and exploited in the past for hundred of years, the present group (after reaping all the benefits) cannot justified that from now on we should all start from the same starting block and expect the same results.

  • ioh
    March 30, 2012 - 07:08

    Now, lets tackle aboriginals getting free tutition. Some who are classified as aboriginal getting special treatment are better off than many who are of "european desent" and have no special treatment. Treatment should be based on need and merit, not race of sex.

    • Joe
      March 30, 2012 - 09:07

      Brian, I would direct your attention to Section 15(2) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Affirmative action is expressly permitted in law by the Charter. While it may not be ideal, it is intended to address historical and cultural disadvantages that have plagued certain sections of Canadian society. While I don't personally endorse affirmative action, if the goal of the university is to encourage both academic achievement AND diversity of the student body, then this policy works just fine. As you say, if a White person and an Aboriginal have the same grades, but the university wishes to encourage Aboriginal post-secondary enrollment, then it makes perfect sense to set aside seats for them.