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Survey shows 22% of public students identify as non-white

Simcoe County School Board census collected data on race and religion of student population
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As of 2021, 22 per cent of Simcoe County District School Board students identify as a non-white race.

That was one of many statistics presented to board trustees on May 11 during their program standing committee meeting concerning their first-ever student census completed in April 2021, bringing to a close the reports expected out of the census.

On Wednesday, trustees received information on data collected pertaining to race, religion and ethnic origin of students.

“I expect this will change very significantly over a short period of time as we’re changing in the province. How will we continue to monitor this as we move forward?” asked Orillia/Ramara/Severn trustee Jodi Lloyd, noting she’d like to see the board monitoring trends.

According to the 2021 Canadian Census, the population of Simcoe County reached 533,169 in 2021, increasing by 11.2 per cent over 2016 numbers.

Nearly 27,000 students (51 per cent) participated in the 2021 student census, which was completed confidentially.

Students in kindergarten to Grade 6 had a parent/guardian participate in the census on their behalf, while students in Grades 7-12 participated in the census themselves.

Manager of Research and Decision Support Lisa Newton said no date has yet been set for the next student census.

“Usually it’s every three to four years,” said Newton.

The race categories census question collected responses from 26,291 participants (or 97 per cent of total participants). Fifty-six per cent of the responses were from students in kindergarten to Grade 6 and 44 per cent of responses represented students in Grades 7-12.

Ninety-three per cent (or 24,482 students) who responded to this census question reported a single race category.

The most commonly reported single-race categories included white (78 per cent), South Asian (four per cent), East/Southeast Asian (three per cent) and Black (three per cent).

Seven per cent (or 1,809 students) reported multiple-race categories.

Of the seven per cent who reported multiple race categories, the three most commonly reported included Indigenous and white (28 per cent), Black and white (17 per cent) and East/Southeast Asian and white (16 per cent).

Data was also collected on ethnic origins, collecting responses from 26,449 participants (or 98 percent of total participants) on the question. Fifty-seven per cent of the responses were from students in Kindergarten to Grade 6 and 43 percent of responses represented students in Grades 7-12.

In total, there were 180 ethnic origins reported by SCDSB students. The ethnic origin census question included 32 ethnic origins, and included an open response option.

Fifty-nine per cent (or 15,654 students) reported a single ethnic origin. The most commonly reported single ethnic origins included Canadian (43 per cent), English (four per cent), Pakistani (one per cent), Chinese (one per cent), Sri Lankan (one per cent) and East Indian (one per cent).

Forty-one per cent (or 10,795 students) reported multiple ethnic origins. Of the 10,795 students who reported more than one ethnic origin, 8,422 (or 78 per cent) reported Canadian as one of their ethnic origins.

Multiple ethnic origins most reported by students including Canadian were Canadian and English (seven per cent), Canadian, English, Irish and Scottish (two per cent) and Canadian and Irish (two per cent).

Multiple ethnic origins most reported by students not including Canadian (2,373 or 22 per cent) were English, Irish and Scottish (one per cent), English and Scottish (one per cent); and English and Irish (one per cent).

The religion and/or spiritual affiliation census question collected responses from 25,878 participants (or 96 per cent of total participants). Fifty-seven per cent of the responses were from students in Kindergarten to Grade 6 and 43 per cent of responses represented students in Grades 7-12.

The question on religion/spiritual affiliation found that 59 per cent of participants don’t identify with any specific religion. Christian was reported by 33 per cent of participants, Muslim was reported by four per cent of participants, Hindu was reported by two per cent of participants and another religion and/or spiritual affiliation was reported by two per cent. One per cent of participants each identified as Jewish, Buddhist, Indigenous spirituality or Sikh.

Midland/Penetanguishene/Tay/Tiny trustee Tyler Boswell asked if there was a geographical breakdown of where the numbers were coming from.

“That is the next level of data mining that we do. We are looking at areas and where we should have additional resources,” said Associate Director of Education Dawn Stephens.

Lloyd noted the value of the information, and how the board can better recognize all students in holidays and celebrations.

“So many of our holidays are based upon the Christian faith. I think it’s important we recognize there’s a significant percentage of our population that has no religious affiliation,” said Lloyd. “We also have a significant number of students who practise other faiths.”

New Tecumseth trustee Sarah Beitz asked if prayer rooms were available in all schools for Muslim students. Superintendent of Education Dean Maltby said interfaith prayer rooms were available.

As defined in the Anti-Racism Act, public-service organizations, which include Ontario school boards, are required and authorized to collect personal information related to programs, services and functions. This includes the collection of personal information related to Indigenous identity, race, religion, ethnic origin, gender identity and other demographic data.

To read our story about the conditions/disabilities data collected through the 2021 student census, click here.

To read our story about the LGBTQ+ data collected through the 2021 student census, click here.

To read our story about languages data collected through the 2021 student census, click here.