I want to begin by thanking and acknowledging the words of many of our country’s most prominent politicians, including our Prime Minister, who have unequivocally condemned all acts of racism in any form, both here in Canada, and abroad. These sentiments provide critical leadership in a time when it is desperately needed. However, with all due respect to these individuals, in the face of increasing tensions and civil unrest, solely condemning and denouncing racial injustice that is systemically embedded across our country is not a sufficient response. We do not need to look far to see the consequences of inadequate action on this issue.
Across the United States of America, we have seen increasingly worsening tensions due to persistent incidences of police brutality and systemic racial discrimination against Black people.
The confronting truth is that we are more alike to our American counterparts than we often care to admit. While different, Canadians across our country have their daily existences characterized by anti-Black, anti-Asian and anti-Indigenous racism. As Prime Minister Trudeau recently said during one of his near-daily press briefings, “Anti-Black racism is real. Systemic discrimination is real. And they happen here, in Canada.”. It is unacceptable that we often give ourselves a ‘free pass’ for our own racist actions and violence simply because we do not perceive them to be as bad as the horrifyingly graphic depictions of what we are seeing happening across the USA. Rather, the images and videos being broadcasted from the USA must serve as an urgent siren. They must send shockwaves throughout our population and ring alarm bells as to what is to come if we continue on our current trajectory of normalizing racism and racist behaviours, while simultaneously failing to enact desperately needed policy changes. We can do better for our Black, Asian, First Nation, Inuit and Métis citizens and so we must.
Given the current circumstances, we have an unprecedented opportunity to engage with these members of our community. We must use this as a means to creating campaigns which raise awareness of racialized Canadian’s own experiences of racial injustice. Another way critical community engagement can be achieved is through the introduction of a national crisis line through which all Canadians would be able to ask for help from their government and public servants, as well as report any incidences of racism which they experience, either directly or to which they have borne witness. I know that silence is one of the most profound ways racism can go unaddressed. I believe that in order to break this silence, we must ensure all of our citizens have an accessible way to share their everyday realities with their government. Doing so will also provide government officials with tangible data on racism in Canada, thus better enabling them to address the issue in a more informed and meaningful way.
Additionally, from my decades of work fighting to address racial inequalities across the globe, I know that a central strategy of targeting racial ignorance is civic education. Therefore, I am demanding that the federal government move swiftly to overhaul the existing public education curricula en masse and mandate the implementation of a racially informed critical analysis which would underpin the education experience of every Canadian students’ mandatory studies.
In following with the need to provoke fundamental and long lasting change at the legislative level, I am renewing the call from my 2009 statement in the Senate urging the federal government to establish a designated cabinet committee to examine all forms of racism which foster social exclusion in Canada. In it my message was clear, and it has not changed. “Racialized groups are highly diverse, and the manifestations of racism affect them differently. Most encounter subtle and systemic barriers, including “glass ceilings” and other limits on their ability to participate fully in society.”. Today, I echo these words and once again, I am imploring members of our government to not only passively hear them, but to meaningfully act on them.
I for one, refuse to continue on this treacherous path which we see being modeled by our American neighbours. That is why today I am taking a major first step in our need for sustained and long-term policy change in this country. I have written a letter urging our federal government to immediately implement a Race-Based Analysis (RBA). Similar to the existing policy oversight initiative of Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) which was brought in under the current government, RBA would help to ensure the employment of a whole of government approach to having a critical race-based oversight applied to all proposed legislation in our country. I recognize that the + of the existing GBA is intended to represent additional interests such as race, ethnicity, religion, age, and mental or physical disability. While this recognition is commendable, I believe that an explicitly race-centric policy oversight, such as my proposed RBA, is necessary to ensure that targeting racial injustice at the legislative level does not become another secondary consideration. In order to affect long overdue and much needed long-term change in our country, both short-term actions and long-term planning is necessary. In addition to the formation of a cabinet committee on racism, adopting an RBA is another one of the ways this can be achieved.
I refuse to stand by and wait for change to happen, so today, I am demanding it. It is my sincere hope and expectation, that along with ongoing active participation in practicing anti-racism and implementing all of my proposed initiatives and legislative changes, in the long run, we will be able to accomplish my ultimate goal of ensuring that a critical and far-reaching oversight of racial injustices in Canada will be integrated into all levels of our ministry and ultimately, our country, on the whole.