Brief History, Role and Resurrection of the "Coloured People" Provision

Brief History of the "Coloured People" Provision in the Ontario School Act, Its Role in Racial Segregations, and Its Resurrection

Summary / TLDR

  1. The "Coloured People" provision remained in the Upper Canada / Ontario School Act from 1850 through 1964, for more than 110 years!
  2. It was manipulatable, and used as the legal ground for racially segregated schools of coloured people, and to unreasonably retain educational resources for some race(s).
  3. It is being resurrected by the TDSB Secondary Program Review and its policies in the name of mega MEGA, which are to restrict the student flow.


This post is to provide the information, and the citations might not be properly given. All the credits are attributed to the original sources. It is written to the best of the contributors' knowledge and memory, which might not be fully accurate.


This is one of a series of accompanying explanatory posts for the FREEDOM Declaration of Ontario and the FREEDOM of Ontario's Heads-up Message to Ontario Citizens and Residents, as listed in the latter's Appendix.


Brief history of the "Coloured People" provision

Ontario has a tradition where the rights to establish separate schools have been supported. This may be traced back to the time when (the majority of) Ontario was called Upper Canada, prior to Canada's Confederation of 1867.


Separate schools have been mainly denominational, as we know about Catholic schools or one Protestant school (board) presently in Ontario. Yet, there existed a "Coloured People" provision in the Upper Canada / Ontario School Act (which evolved into the Ontario Education Act), which provision supported establishing separate schools for "coloured people."


In 1850, the "Coloured People" provision appeared in the Common School Act, the 19th Section:


It shall be the duty of the Municipal Council of any Township, and of the Board of School Trustees of any City, Town or incorporated Village, on the application, in writing, of twelve, or more, resident heads of families, to authorize the establishment of one, or more, Separate schools for Protestants, Roman Catholics, or Coloured people; … [Emphasis added]


A similar provision continued in various versions of the School Act, and an application to establish separate schools was allowed from a group of five or more heads of families. The Ontario Separate School Act, 1914, Section 3 reads:


  3. Upon the application in writing of five or more heads of families resident in a township, city, town or village, being coloured people, the municipal council of the township or the board of public school trustees of the city, town or village shall authorize the establishment therein of one or more separate schools for coloured people. [Emphasis added]


A nearly identical provision was in the Separate School Act, 1961, Section 2.


This provision was removed from the Separate School Act on March 12, 1964, per the request from Leonard Braithwaite, Canada's first black provincial legislator and a Liberal representing Etobicoke. (Bradburn, 2018)


It remained in the Upper Canada / Ontario law for more than 110 years.

Role of the "Coloured People" provision in racial segregations

Although it appears the legislative intent for this provision was to support the rights to separate schools of coloured people as minorities, just as of denominational groups as minorities such as Roman Catholic and Protestant groups, in the historical reality, it was used as the legal ground to force coloured people to be segregated in separate schools.


As the required number for family heads to apply for the establishment of a separate school was as little as five, it was conveniently manipulatable in practice: A separate school of coloured people could be established per the application from any such five or more family heads for whatever reason including any untold one, and then the whole section of the coloured pupils could be segregated in the school.


It is an undeniable fact that the "Coloured People" provision and segregated schools were historically utilized by a number of people to retain educational resources for their own race(s). Unfortunately, as if we Ontario citizens and residents had not had suffered enough from racial segregation, a remade and yet essentially the same show is being replayed.

Resurrection of the "Coloured People" provision

The TDSB Secondary Program Review is clearly and unequivocally residency based and centered. In the latest Student Interest Programs Policy (Policy 1) and the Out-of-Area Admissions Policy (Policy 2), available to the public since April 27, 2022, it is further proposed that the number of schools or programs a student may apply for, for both specialized and regular, will be capped at one (1), and that an indefinite (and yet likely significant) number of schools (and then "local" programs) will be Closed, *NEW* Limited (Siblings), or *NEW* Limited (Siblings & Feeder School) (Page 4, Policy 2).


All these are apparently to limit the student flow, and would directly lead to ethno-racial and/or socioeconomic segregations, because communities (and cities) (in Ontario or beyond) often naturally develop and form, more or less, into different ethno-racial and/or socioeconomic groups.


They are simply an insidious and disguised attempt to resurrect the "Coloured People" provision under the mega ideology of making "equity" great again (mega MEGA), deviation and betrayal of the open enrollment tradition in Ontario public education, and publicly announced intent to discriminate against students and their families based on residency and to violate their equality and mobility rights conferred and protected by the Human Rights Instruments as cited in the FREEDOM Declaration of Ontario.


Such segregations also lead to racial quota or racial balancing, in particular, for specialized educational programming, which is generally sources-limited and should be openly, fairly and transparently competitive based on merit or capacity, but now would be allocated by forced racial quota.


It is really shameful and dishonorable that such Review and policies are emerging in the 2020s, nearly sixty (60) years after the "Coloured People" provision was removed from the Ontario law, when in fact the open enrollment provision as an invaluable heritage is still presently effective in Section 40 of the Ontario Education Act.


The Review and the two policies must be resolutely declined, resisted, and overturned in case approved by the TDSB trustees.



All last accessed: May 19, 2022.

  1. Bradburn, J. (2018, February 26). The story of Ontario’s last segregated Black school.
  2. Henry, N. (2022, April 6). Racial Segregation of Black People in Canada.
  3. Smith, C. C. (2004, December). Tuition fee increases and the history of racial exclusion in Canadian legal education.
  4. (n.d.). A Historical Overview of Education in Canada.


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