There is no longer any doubt that Canada is indeed a nation that is plagued by systemic racism, at every level. As a racialized person, I have been subject to, and have witnessed, what it means to have the “wrong” skin colour and accent despite my access to a good education and my subsequent careers, prior to being a Senator.
Now that the obvious truth, long known by racialized Canadians has been acknowledged by those at the highest echelons of power, it is time for us to work to implement long-term strategies to eradicate all forms of racism in our country so that no child, no woman, and no man continues to suffer these injustices.
There are many faces of racism. Namely, overt, implicit, and systemic. Overt acts of racism are often the most shocking for many people, but it is not the one that hinders progress for racialized people. Telling someone to go back to their country is a clear act of hatred that is punishable by law and its perpetrators can be identified. Thus, it is a fixable problem.
Implicit biases and systemic racism are the real problem, because they require deeper reflection from individuals and fundamental changes in institutions.
From the moment a racialized person is born, they endure Systemic and Systematic oppression. Their access to healthcare, education, housing and employment are all dependant on the degree of discrimination, marginalization, institutionalization and state intervention which they are forced to face.
In the coming series of blogs, we will explore how Systemic racism affects so many Canadians. As such, it is important that everyone understands the depth of this issue because most of the time those who are not affected by systemic racism do not grasp the size of it.
Through the journey of a Canadian family, we will explore how a name that signals a non-white person can be the beginning of a life of poverty. Did you know that if you have such a name, your chances of getting a call-back from recruiters drops to 44% as opposed to a white sounding name?
While some may be able to secure well-paying jobs that match their education, their opportunities for success and promotions at work are hindered because of exclusion, marginalization and implicit biases.
A Canadian family that is either struggling to get well-paying jobs or to get promoted to better their financial status, is most likely to live in an under-served, over-protected and similarly racialized neighbourhood. They are also most likely to send their children to an underfunded public school, where the education is not of the highest quality.
What is more, an encounter with the police, the individuals who have sworn to protect and serve, may end in a beating, one or many charges, a night or many nights, in a jail cell or as we have all tragically seen both here and abroad, unwarranted death. In Jails across the country, Black people are over-represented by 300% versus their population and for Indigenous people that number jumps to 500%.
In the event that a racialized family, such as my own is able to achieve success, our experiences of racism do not vanish. Tragically, my own lifelong encounters with racism in Canada have also been endured by my children and grandchildren. This is unacceptable. It is inconceivable that in our country, mine and so many children of colour are afraid to drive down the street without being followed, stopped and interrogated by the police. It is unconscionable that parents have to live with the daily fear of not knowing whether their children will come home to them.
It is time this ends. We must rewrite an archaic status quo of racial exclusion under a façade of holistic inclusion. We must clearly define systemic and systematic racism, while simultaneously naming racism, in all its forms; implicit and explicit and we must restructure the systems which directly facilitate and perpetuate these inequalities. I will never stand idly by while Canadians are treated less than for the sole reason of their racial identity. The eradication of racism can be achieved and the time to act is now.
Systemic Racism is often referred to as an impossible problem to fix, but in reality, it is not.
An overhaul in our education system to teach Canadians about the histories, cultures and achievements of different races can be a start. A Race-Based Analysis 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. There are solutions. If there is a political will, to match the apparent social will, this ailment can be healed.