1st Session, 43rd Parliament
Volume 151, Issue 26

Tuesday, June 23, 2020
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker

The Estimates, 2020-21

Consideration of Main Estimates and Supplementary Estimates (A) in Committee of the Whole

On the Order:

The Senate in Committee of the Whole to consider the expenditures set out in the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021, and in the Supplementary Estimates (A) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2021.

(The sitting of the Senate was suspended and put into Committee of the Whole, the Honourable Pierrette Ringuette in the chair.)

Senator McPhedran: I’d like to thank you, Minister Duclos and Minister Morneau and your officials, for joining us here today. I will share time to question you on behalf of Senator Mobina Jaffer regarding the measures your departments are taking or will take to deal with systemic racism, followed by my own question if time allows.

Let me use a little bit of this time to ask you, please, not to experience rude interruptions by a previous questioner as a reflection on the rest of us in the chamber today, and to express to you my regret the conduct that descended to that level.

Senator Jaffer begins:

I recognize that the Plus of the existing Gender Based Analysis is intended to represent race, ethnicity, religion, age, and mental or physical disability. While this recognition is commendable, I believe that an explicitly race-centric policy oversight is necessary to ensure that targeting racial injustice at the legislative level does not become another secondary consideration.

Consequently, and in light of the words of Prime Minister Trudeau, we should focus on dealing with our systemic racism problems in Canada through real actions on institutional levels.

Senator Jaffer then asks:

Are your departments considering implementing race-based analysis and if any action to fight systemic racism is under way, can you tell us what these actions are?

Mr. Duclos: Thank you, senator. Maybe I should start with the GBA+ comment that you made. It’s all about giving everyone a fair chance in life. Let me give an example of the type of unequal opportunities that exist in Canada: Take two baby girls born on the same day: one Indigenous and one non-Indigenous. The Indigenous baby girl will have a 10 time higher probability of being jailed once in her lifetime than the other baby girl.

That is a demonstration of the fact that there is no way to deny we have unequal opportunities in Canada. That’s why those things that may seem technical, like a GBA+ analysis, are absolutely essential. We need to talk about things. The first thing we need to do before we tackle issues is to recognize that they exist. Once we recognize they exist, we can openly discuss why they exist and how to make sure they don’t exist any longer.

To admit that systemic racism exists in Canada is the first step to correcting it. That’s why this conversation is so important — to support subsequent actions that must be taken. Systemic racism is one of the reasons we have an inequality of opportunity in Canada and the reason an Indigenous baby girl doesn’t have the same chance in life as a baby girl who is not.