White Benevolence

Racism and Colonial Violence in the Helping Professions

Edited by Amanda Gebhard, Sheelah McLean and Verna St. Denis  

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When working with Indigenous people, the helping professions —education, social work, health care and justice — reinforce the colonial lie that Indigenous people need saving. In White Benevolence, leading anti-racism scholars reveal the ways in which white settlers working in these institutions shape, defend and uphold institutional racism, even while professing to support Indigenous people. White supremacy shows up in the everyday behaviours, language and assumptions of white professionals who reproduce myths of Indigenous inferiority and deficit, making it clear that institutional racism encompasses not only high-level policies and laws but also the collective enactment by people within these institutions. In this uncompromising and essential collection, the authors argue that white settler social workers, educators, health-care practitioners and criminal justice workers have a responsibility to understand the colonial history of their professions and their complicity in ongoing violence, be it over-policing, school push-out, child apprehension or denial of health care. The answer isn’t cultural awareness training. What’s needed is radical anti-racism, solidarity and a relinquishing of the power of white supremacy.

White Benevolence is a powerful collection scrutinizing the myriad ways racism in Canada manifests, is sustained, and is perpetuated in our systems of power and in social, political and economic relations. This panoptic collection is a clarion call for Canadians to wake up and dispense, once and for all, with the delusion that Canada is racism free. This is a must-read for students, educators and the general public.”

— Raven Sinclair, professor, writer, filmmaker and editor of Wicihitowin: Aboriginal Social Work in Canada

“Interrogating the relation between the ‘helping professions’ and the production of white racial power, this much-needed work exposes the everyday violence that permeates Canada’s social institutions. This book is an essential and timely read for educators and activists, and for social workers and policy makers.”

— Dr. Sunera Thobani, Professor, Department of Asian Studies, UBC

“White Benevolence makes a major contribution to understandings of historical and contemporary practices of violence in the helping professions. It interrogates the operationalization of claims to innocence, while being deeply implicated in systems of colonialism and white supremacy. It should be a foundational text for anyone working in and against formal systems of social working, including education, healthcare and social work.”

— AJ Withers, author of Fight To Win: Inside Poor People’s Organizing (2021) and Disability Politics and Theory (2012)

  • EPUB
  • ISBN: 9781773635460
  • May 2022
  • $27.99
  • For sale worldwide
  • PDF
  • ISBN: 9781773635477
  • May 2022
  • $27.99
  • For sale worldwide

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  • Chapter 1: Introduction by Amanda Gebhard, Sheelah McLean and Verna St. Denis
  • Chapter 2: Living Our Family Through Settler Colonialism by Verna St. Denis
  • Chapter 3: Toxic Encounters: What’s Whiteness Doing in a Nice Field Like Education? by Sheelah McLean
  • Chapter 4: How Indigenous-specific Racism is Coached into Health Systems by Barry Lavallee and Laurie Harding
  • Chapter 5: “Within this architecture of oppression, we are a vibrant community”: Indigenous Prairie Prisoner Organizing during COVID-19 by Nancy Van Styvendale
  • Chapter 6: Tracing the Harmful Patterns of White Settler Womanhood by Willow Samara Allen
  • Chapter 7: Policing Indigenous Students: The School/Prison Nexus on the Canadian Prairies by Amanda Gebhard
  • Chapter 8: The Stories We Tell: Indigenous Women and Girls’ Narratives on Police Violence by Megan Scribe
  • Chapter 9: Colten Boushie and the Deadly Articulations of Settler Colonialism: The Origins and Consequences of a Racist Discourse by Timothy J. Stanley
  • Chapter 10: What can “Settler of Colour” Teach Us? A Conversation of the Complexities of Decolonization in White Universities by Shaista Patel and Nisha Nath
  • Chapter 11: Am I a settler? Considering Dominance through racial constructs and land relationships by S.J. Adrienna Joyce
  • Chapter 12: Unmasking the Whiteness of Nursing by Sharissa Hantke
  • Chapter 13: The Whiteness of Medicine by Jaris Swidrovich
  • Chapter 14: A Circle of Rocks: Cannibal Culture, Kinship, and Indigenous Youth in the Saskatchewan Public School System by Jas M. Morgan
  • Chapter 15: Permission to Escape by Heather Carter
  • Chapter 16: White entitlement in antiracism and anticolonialism by Jeff Halvorsen, Regine King, Liza Lorenzetti, Adrian Wolfleg and Lemlem Haile
  • Chapter 17: An Interview with Dr. Alex Wilson: Queering the Mainstream by Alex Wilson and Sheelah McLean
  • Chapter 18: Conclusion by Amanda Gebhard, Sheelah Mclean and Verna St. Denis


  • Amanda Gebhard

    Assistant Professor, University of Regina

    Amanda Gebhard is a white settler scholar and assistant professor in the Faculty of Social Work, University of Regina. She has more than fifteen years’ experience in anti-racism education as a student, researcher, and instructor in education and social work faculties. Dr. Gebhard’s interdisciplinary research investigates racism and educational exclusions, the school/prison nexus and anti-racist pedagogy and practice. She has published widely on racism and whiteness in education in the Canadian prairies.

  • Sheelah McLean

    Curriculum Developer,  San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training, BC Provincial Health Authority

    Sheelah McLean is a third-generation white settler who was born and raised on Treaty 6 Territory. Dr. McLean has worked in education for thirty years teaching high school, adult education and graduate and undergraduate courses in anti-racism at the University of Saskatchewan. She is an organizer with the Idle No More network. As a scholar and community organizer, her work has focused on research projects and actions that address inequality, particularly on how white dominance is created and maintained within a white settler society. She is a curriculum developer for San’yas Indigenous Cultural Safety Training Program.

  • Verna St. Denis

    Professor, University of Saskatchewan

    Verna St. Denis is a professor of education and special advisor to the president on anti-racism/anti-oppression at the University of Saskatchewan, where she has taught undergraduate and graduate courses in integrated anti-racist education for many years. She is both Cree and Metis and a member of the Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation. Dr. St. Denis is a widely sought-after speaker on the topic of racism in education. Her research and scholarship are in anti-racist and Indigenous education, and she has published extensively on these topics.

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