My recent blog titled, “Canada’s Urgent Need for A Race-Based Analysis” urged our federal government to adopt and implement strategies to combat all forms of racism in Canada.
The need for this action is clearly evidenced by the growing global movement against anti-Black racism, one local example of which was the June 5 protest in Ottawa. Prior to and since then, the Prime Minister, Members of Parliament and Senators, have consistently committed to responding to the need for systemic change to address the shameful racism which continues to run rampant in our country.
These words need to be accompanied by actions. That is why I am renewing my long-held call from a 2009 Senate speech in which I implored the need for the creation of a designated Cabinet Committee to study and inform our government leaders on how best to implement strategies and policies to combat Racism in Canada.
The time for listening is over. By implementing a Cabinet Committee to study Racism in Canada, The Parliament of Canada and our Prime Minister have an opportunity to be global leaders of anti-racism. We must not let them forgo this opportunity, nor can we allow them to continue to abdicate their responsibility to respond to the desperate calls for action from racialized Canadians. I hear their cries and screams for change. I regularly see the pain around me, and I will speak against it. A Cabinet Committee to Study Racism in Canada is a central tenet of the urgent need for sustained and long-term anti-racist action.
When it first took office in 2015, the federal government with its majority in the House of Commons was lauded when it created a Cabinet committee on ‘Diversity and Inclusion’. Then, in 2018, the Prime Minister opted to merge two existing Cabinet Committees on ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ and ‘Growing the Middle Class’ which he renamed the ‘Cabinet Committee on Growing the Middle Class and Inclusion’. Currently, in 2020, with minority representation, the federal government has established a ‘Cabinet Committee on Health and Social Affairs’. This most recent Committee is purportedly “Responsible for initiatives that will improve the health quality of life, and economic security of Canadians, including strengthening and promoting a more diverse and inclusive Canada”.
I am extremely disappointed that this description does not even bother to mention racism, let alone anti-racism as a part of its priority mandate. I strongly believe that in order to overcome social ills plaguing our society, such as marginalization, discrimination, racial violence and overt racism, we must first name them and call them out openly. How is the government intending to inspire confidence amongst the Canadian public that it is prepared to meaningfully work to dismantle long-held racist attitudes and behaviours when it is not even prepared to openly own the need to do so in Parliament?
Some may say, the process of forming a committee takes time and careful considerations, thus it cannot be rushed. However, seemingly in an instant, the government responded to the crisis of an ongoing Global Pandemic by establishing an ‘Ad-Hoc Cabinet Committee on the federal response to the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)’. Racism too is a global pandemic and it requires similar and uniquely urgent political action.
With all due to respect to my fellow parliamentarians, the federal government’s alternative approach of diluting the narrative of urgently needed anti-racist actions and policies is short-sighted, at best and frustratingly oblivious, at worst. This inaction and light-footed approach to a worsening reality endured by racialized Canadians across our country is unacceptable and I, for one, will never stand for it.
Across the world, nations are saying enough is enough. Enough of turning a blind eye to racism. Enough of letting senseless acts of racist violence go unpunished. Enough of being silent on an issue that is screaming for meaningful and long-lasting political leadership and tangible political action.
Canada continues to be seen as a global leader in regard to respecting and upholding human rights. During a time in history when we are seeing a new era of politics being modeled, we cannot let that reputation fall due to inaction. Parliamentarians have long listened and heard the desperate needs for change felt across our country. The time to act is now. Do not let racialized Canadians down. We are all counting on you.