Research Cluster Speaker Series: Race, the Canadian Census, and Interactive Political Development

When and Where

Thursday, February 09, 2023 12:00 pm to 2:00 pm
CG 265
Canadiana Gallery
14 Queen's Park Crescent West, Toronto, ON M5S 3K9


Debra Thompson


This ls a free lecture, but registration is required

Though the “population group” question on the census is now well-established, there is a rather erratic history of counting by race in Canada. Though it is intuitive to assume that racial questions and categories are shaped by the changing demographic profile of the country over time, I argue that the political development of racial classifications on Canadian censuses during the 19th and 20th centuries was shaped by the interactions among evolving global ideas about race, programmatic beliefs of international epistemic communities of statisticians and census designers, and the domestic institutions involved in the administration of the census. This research demonstrates the necessity of focusing on the interactive transnational and domestic forces that shape Canadian political development and details the emergence, dynamism, and persistence of the Canadian racial order.  

About Professor Thompson

Dr. Debra Thompson is an Associate Professor of Political Science and Canada Research Chair in Racial Inequality in Democratic Societies at McGill University. She is a leading scholar of the comparative politics of race. Her research, teaching, and public scholarship seek to understand, analyze, and explain the complex historic and contemporary relationships among race, the state, and inequality in Canada and other democratic societies. Dr. Thompson’s award-winning first book, The Schematic State: Race, Transnationalism, and the Politics of the Census (Cambridge University Press, 2016) is a study of the political development of racial classifications on the national censuses of the United States, Canada, and Great Britain. Her best-selling second book, The Long Road Home: On Blackness and Belonging (Scribner Canada, 2022) was a CBC and Indigo top book of 2022 and a finalist for the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

A light lunch will be served at 12:00pm in the Centre Lounge, 2nd floor of the Canadiana Gallery. 

Please note that the location does not have a working elevator. If you are a person with a disability and require accommodation, please contact us at and we will do our best to make appropriate arrangements.


14 Queen's Park Crescent West, Toronto, ON M5S 3K9