Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

2nd Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 146, Issue 12

Wednesday, February 25, 2009
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

Racism in Canada

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, our country made history last week when Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, Canada’s head of state, welcomed to our soil Barack Obama, the first African-American President of the United States. It was a poignant moment for all Canadians. It spoke to our minds and hearts in much the same way as did the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. when he said, “I have a dream.” It was an emotional event at the end of Black History Month. President Obama’s visit was welcomed by us all.

Honourable senators, I stand today and ask that we use this same zeal to welcome all Canadians. This means addressing inequality in our country.

Last November, Ontario released a report entitled, Review of the Roots of Youth Violence, which said that Ontario is at a crossroads in dealing with the roots of violence involving youth. Deep concerns about racism were expressed in the report. The authors of the report said:

We were taken aback by the extent to which racism is alive and well and wreaking its deeply harmful effects on Ontarians and on the very fabric of this province.

They went on to say that:

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. Others, in particular Blacks, continue to also suffer from a seemingly more entrenched and often more virulent form of racism.

Honourable senators, I know this statement could apply to every province in Canada. The report, commissioned in 2007 by the Ontario government after the shooting death of a grade 9 student at a Toronto high school, calls for a comprehensive and community-focused approach to addressing youth issues.

This report recommends anti-racism initiatives, calling for the establishment of a cabinet committee on social inclusion and anti-racism, as well as the training of front-line police officers, teachers and school principles to “better reflect the neighbourhoods they serve.”

Honourable senators, one of the most important tasks we as senators are entrusted with is protecting the rights of minorities. We have basked in the visit of President Obama. We must now work to eradicate racism from our midst. I know honourable senators will agree with me that this is a collective responsibility.