Building a Foundation for Change: Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy 2019–2022

On this page

Foreword from the Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage & Multiculturalism

The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage & Multiculturalism

Diversity and inclusion are cornerstones of Canadian identity, a source of social and economic strength, and something of which all Canadians can be proud. However, even in an open and diverse society like ours, we know that there are still very real challenges. Building a Foundation for Change requires us to first acknowledge that there is a problem we need to address. We know that throughout our history, and even today, there are people and communities who face systemic racism and discrimination in our country. Recent events at home and abroad have also shown that no community is immune to the effects of hateful rhetoric. Whether it's racism and discrimination that is anti-Indigenous, Islamophobic, antisemitic, anti-Black, or homophobic, it is clear that the Government of Canada needs to do more to combat racism and discrimination in its various forms.

The experiences of racialized communities and Indigenous Peoples with racism and discrimination can also vary. Applying an intersectional lens reveals a complex picture of the way that different groups and individuals are excluded and harmed. The Government of Canada is committed to building a foundation for change by removing barriers and promoting a country where every person is able to fully participate and have an equal opportunity to succeed. Achieving this vision is not just a way to build a better country, it also addresses the human cost of racism and discrimination. Building a society that is free of racism requires ongoing commitment.

From October 2018 to March 2019, engagement sessions were held across the country to gather input from Canadians, especially those with lived experiences of racism and discrimination, in order to help inform the development of a new federal anti-racism strategy. The engagement process consisted of 22 in-person forums that welcomed approximately 600 people and 443 organizations. Sessions were held in partnership with community groups and Indigenous Peoples including First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples, referred to collectively as "Indigenous" throughout this Strategy but who are recognized, along with the Peoples they encompass, as having their own distinct experiences. Equally, all Canadians were invited to participate through an online poll and survey.

Building a Foundation for Change: Canada's Anti-Racism Strategy 2019–2022 is a $45 million investment that will take immediate steps in combatting racism and discrimination based on what was heard during the engagement process and supported by research. The Strategy will complement existing government efforts and programs aimed at eliminating inequities by focusing on three guiding principles: Demonstrating Federal Leadership, Empowering Communities, and Building Awareness & Changing Attitudes.

The Government of Canada recognizes that much work remains ahead to eliminate racism and discrimination. Through this strategy, we are taking action by Building a Foundation for Change. Together, we can work toward building a more inclusive and equitable country for all Canadians.

The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez,
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism

Guiding principles

Building a Foundation for Change: Canada's Anti-Racism Strategy 2019–2022 is guided by a vision of Canada where all Canadians benefit from equitable access to and participation in the economic, cultural, social and political spheres. It builds a foundation for long-term action by supporting three guiding principles:

Demonstrating Federal Leadership

A Whole-of-Government Approach: The Anti-Racism Secretariat

Canadians understand that diversity is our strength. However, we know that even today there are people and communities who experience systemic racism and discrimination. Racialized communities and Indigenous peoples continue to face systemic barriers, notably in employment, justice, and social participation. Leadership requires taking proactive steps to remove these barriers that impose a limit on one's full potential.

Building a Foundation for Change: Canada's Anti-Racism Strategy 2019-2022 will invest $4.6 million to establish a new Anti-Racism Secretariat within the Department of Canadian Heritage that will be supported by existing inter-departmental committees and lead a whole-of-government approach in addressing racism. In addition to coordinating federal action and driving the overall strategy, the Secretariat will work with federal departments and agencies to address the effects of discrimination. This means leading federal institutions to identify and coordinate responsive initiatives, identify gaps, assist in developing new initiatives, and consider the impacts of new and existing policies, services and programs on communities and Indigenous Peoples.

The Secretariat will report publicly on the whole-of-government outcomes in addressing racism and discrimination. It will also contribute to work being undertaken by the Treasury Board Secretariat toward a more diverse and inclusive public service. Diversity helps us to better understand the needs of the people and communities we serve, which helps us build better programs and services that meet the needs of all Canadians.

The Government of Canada recognizes that to be successful it cannot act alone. Partnerships will be important. The Secretariat will liaise with provinces and territories and will continue to engage and work with non-government partners, Indigenous Peoples and communities to identify and develop further areas for action.

Building on the work we're doing

We're not starting from scratch. The Government of Canada has an ongoing commitment to diversity and inclusion, and working towards the elimination of racism and discrimination. Action is already being taken across the federal government to help make a difference in the lives of Canadians by addressing systemic barriers and particular challenges that result from racism. This strategy builds on the work the Government of Canada is already doing to address the impacts of racism, and barriers faced by racialized communities, Indigenous Peoples and religious minorities. Ongoing funding of $4.5 billion, in addition to $8.5 billion since 2016, has been invested in these areas (see Appendix).

The following ongoing federal initiatives are some examples that aim at addressing a number of issues in Canadian society, including racism and discrimination, and/or have a focus on Indigenous Peoples, religious minorities or racialized communities:

Way forward

Engaging Communities and Indigenous Peoples

The cross-country engagement process provided valuable guidance in developing Building a Foundation for Change: Canada's Anti-Racism Strategy 2019–2022. The engagement process confirmed that combatting racism and discrimination must be a priority for government and citizens alike. Going forward, we will continue to engage racialized communities, religious minority communities and Indigenous Peoples, and meaningfully involve them in decision-making related to proposed government actions.

Engaging Provinces and Territories

Provincial and territorial governments are important partners in the fight against racism and discrimination. The new Anti-Racism Secretariat will engage provinces and territories through existing federal-provincial-territorial networks. It will work to strengthen partnerships and share best practices. Through engagement with partners, we will work to identify emerging issues, encourage complementary actions and responses and identify areas for further collaboration.

Engaging other Government Departments

Engagement across departments was an important step in the development of Building a Foundation for Change: Canada's Anti-Racism Strategy 2019–2022. Moving ahead, continued engagement across government will help increase understanding of how federal government policies and program can be better put to use to help fight racism and discrimination. Better coordination across government means better sharing of innovative approaches, the development and sharing of new data and identifying future areas for federal action.

Empowering Communities

Introducing the Anti-Racism Action Program

We know we need to support people and communities on the ground who have expertise in addressing various forms of racism and discrimination. Building a Foundation for Change: Canada's Anti-Racism Strategy 2019–2022 will invest $30 million in community-based projects that aim to address racism and discrimination.

As part of our strategy, a new Anti-Racism Action Program will be launched to provide funding support for local, regional and national initiatives and outcomes-based activities in key areas of intervention:

These particular sectors of intervention were identified by research and confirmed by engagement participants as key areas within federal jurisdiction where racism and discrimination are most acutely experienced by Canadians.

Enhanced support for capacity building & promoting dialogue

Additional funding will be directed to the existing Community Support, Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Initiatives Program (CSMARI) to offer enhanced support for community capacity building and projects that promote diversity and inclusion more generally, as well as inter-community and interfaith dialogue.

Recognizing expertise

Racism has different impacts on individuals, urban and rural communities and Canadian society as a whole, and a one-size-fits-all approach cannot work. Building a Foundation for Change: Canada's Anti-Racism Strategy 2019–2022 recognizes the expertise of community organizations and Indigenous Peoples, involving them in the design, development and delivery of projects to address the specific barriers they face. It allows for community and people-developed initiatives to target particular issues.

Encouraging innovation

Building a Foundation for Change: Canada's Anti-Racism Strategy 2019–2022 will promote innovative and experimental funding approaches, like prizes and challenges that reward positive results. The continued existence of barriers caused by discrimination and racism calls for the examination of new or different approaches to achieving positive outcomes. This will encourage more people and organizations to join the conversation and contribute to real change.

Building Awareness and Changing Attitudes

Public education and awareness

Public education and awareness are essential in order to effectively work toward the elimination of racial discrimination and inequality. That is why Building a Foundation for Change: Canada's Anti-Racism Strategy 2019–2022 will invest $3.3 million for a National Public Education and Awareness Campaign based on regional and demographic needs that will be informed and developed with impacted communities and Indigenous Peoples. Its goal will be to increase public awareness and understanding, in both urban and rural areas, of the historical roots of racism and its different impacts on Indigenous Peoples, as well as racialized and religious minority communities.

Indigenous focused approach

As reiterated by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, no relationship is more important to Canada than the relationship with Indigenous Peoples. The Government of Canada is working together with Indigenous Peoples to build a nation-to-nation, Indigenous-Crown, government-to-government relationship – one based on respect, partnership and recognition of rights.

In addition, progress is currently being made to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance reconciliation.

The report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls issued 231 Calls for Justice directed at governments, institutions, social service providers and all Canadians. The Prime Minister committed to engaging with Indigenous governments, families and survivors, Indigenous womens' organizations, provinces and territories in developing a national action plan to respond to the report. The government understands that this process requires its own, full response. In the meantime, through Building a Foundation for Change: Canada's Anti-Racism Strategy 2019-2022, the Government of Canada is committed to continue working with Indigenous peoples to promote educational awareness on the history and experiences of Indigenous Peoples in Canada including the effects of colonialism and the results of the residential school system that remain misunderstood in many parts of the country. Furthermore, the Strategy recognizes the distinct experiences of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Peoples and those of the distinct peoples they encompass, empowering them to bring their own perspectives and to make decisions on what initiatives will best meet their needs.

Furthermore, the Secretariat will engage with Indigenous Peoples and partners to identify and develop further areas for action.

Addressing hate crimes & combatting online hate

According to Statistics Canada, police-reported hate crimes motivated by religion, race, or ethnicity, increased by 47% in year 2017. Through our engagement with communities and people with lived experiences, we heard that Black Canadians, Muslims, Asian and Jewish communities are some of the groups who experience hate crimes disproportionately. There are also growing national and international concerns around the spread of online hate speech. We have even seen its impacts here at home when six lives were lost and many others injured during a horrific shooting at a mosque in Quebec City.

Online platforms have increasingly become a tool to incite, publish and promote terrorism, violence and hatred. The March 2019 terror attack in Christchurch, New-Zeland was a harrowing reminder that we need to take coordinated action to prevent social media and other online platforms from being used in these ways. That is why Canada joined the Christchurch Call to Action – a global pledge to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online. Through the Christchurch Call, governments and online services providers are making voluntary, collective commitments to combat online hate.

Canada's Digital Charter that builds on these commitments was also enacted in May 2019. One of its fundamental principles is freedom from hate and violent extremism: Canadians can expect that digital platforms will not foster or disseminate hate, violent extremism or criminal content. The Charter highlights the Government of Canada's commitment to continuing its bilateral and multilateral efforts to work with digital industry including social media platforms to better address violent extremist and terrorist use of the Internet and online hate, in concert with other federal government efforts to address online harm.

Through the Anti-Racism Action Program in Building a Foundation for Change: Canada's Anti-Racism Strategy 2019-2022, an investment of $5 million will be made to support community-led digital and civic literacy programming to address online disinformation and hate speech. This reflects heightened concerns around online hate and the need to support local communities. This will be complemented by an additional investment of $0.9 million to support Public Safety Canada in developing a national framework and evidence-based guidelines to better respond to hate crimes, hate incidents and hate speech.

Data and evidence

Better, more precise, and more consistent tracking, collection and measurement of data is necessary for any effective anti-racism effort.

Through Building a Foundation for Change: Canada's Anti-Racism Strategy 2019–2022, the Government of Canada will invest $6.2 million to increase reliable, usable and comparable data and evidence regarding racism and discrimination. This includes working with Statistics Canada and the Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics, and enhancing the collection of disaggregated data that can be broken down by meaningful categories of race and/or ethno-cultural origins, and the analysis of this data.

The Strategy will also strengthen impact measurement and performance reporting. We will work to ensure that data is collected to measure how effective community programs and government initiatives are, and where the most impact is achieved.

Some of the investments that will be made through the Strategy to increase available data include oversampling Statistics Canada's 2020 General Social Survey – Social Identity. The General Social Survey gathers data on social trends, and monitors changes in living conditions and well-being. Oversampling allows a better breakdown of data on particular groups in certain regions of Canada.

Investments also include support to Statistics Canada's Expert Advisory Committee on Ethno-cultural and Immigration Statistics, and support to the Department of Justice's National Legal Problems Survey. The National Legal Problems Survey provides information on the number of Canadians who experience legal problems related to discrimination.

Ensuring a lasting impact

Building a Foundation for Change: Canada's Anti-Racism Strategy 2019–2022 contributes to the Government of Canada's vision to foster and promote an inclusive society where everyone is able to fully participate in the economic, cultural, social and political spheres.

The investments in the Strategy are building on current efforts to build long-term changes in supporting communities and for improved policies, initiatives and practices in our federal institutions. They are meant to be the first step of a longer-term commitment and a foundation for change to address racism and discrimination in Canada. These investments will help achieve measurable, evidence-based objectives focused on increasing equity of access and/or participation among people and communities most impacted by racism and discrimination.

Ultimately, the Strategy is expected to increase equity of access and participation among racialized communities, religious minorities and Indigenous Peoples to employment, justice and social participation, as well as increased public awareness of the barriers and challenges faced by racialized communities, religious minorities and Indigenous Peoples.

Results of Building a Foundation for Change: Canada's Anti-Racism Strategy 2019–2022 and whole-of-government outcomes will be reported to Canadians on a yearly basis.

By demonstrating federal leadership, empowering communities, and building awareness and changing attitudes, the Government of Canada is taking action in building a foundation for change.


Words matter when it comes to promoting inclusion and eliminating discrimination. The following working definitions enable us to have a common understanding of a word or subject.

Anti-Asian Racism

In Canada, anti-Asian racism refers to historical and ongoing discrimination, negative stereotyping, and injustice experienced by peoples of Asian descent, based on others’ assumptions about their ethnicity and nationality. Peoples of Asian descent are subjected to specific overt and subtle racist tropes and stereotypes at individual and systemic levels, which lead to their ongoing social, economic, political and cultural marginalization, disadvantage and unequal treatment. This includes perceptions of being a “Yellow Peril,” a “Perpetual Foreigner,” a “Model Minority,” “exotic,” or “mystic.” These stereotypes are rooted in Canada’s long history of racist and exclusionary laws, and often mask racism faced by peoples of Asian descent, while erasing their historical contributions to building Canada.

The term Asian encompasses a wide range of identities that the very term Asian can obscure. While all may experience being “otherized,” specific experiences of anti-Asian racism vary. Some are constantly being perceived to be a threat, some face gendered exotification and violence, some are more likely to be subjected to online hate and racist portrayals in the media, while others face Islamophobia and other forms of religious-based discrimination.Footnote 1

Anti-Black racism
Prejudice, attitudes, beliefs, stereotyping and discrimination that is directed at people of African descent and is rooted in their unique history and experience of enslavement. Anti-Black racism is deeply entrenched in Canadian institutions, policies and practices, such that anti-Black racism is either functionally normalized or rendered invisible to the larger white society. Anti-Black racism is manifested in the legacy of the current social, economic, and political marginalization of African Canadians in society such as the lack of opportunities, lower socio-economic status, higher unemployment, significant poverty rates and overrepresentation in the criminal justice system.Footnote 2
Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.Footnote 3
A practice of domination, which involves the subjugation of one people to another. Settler colonialism — such as in the case of Canada — is the unique process where the colonizing population does not leave the territory, asserts ongoing sovereignty to the land, actively seeks to assimilate the Indigenous populations and extinguish their cultures, traditions and ties to the land.Footnote 4
Disaggregated data
In the context of race-based data, this means breaking down composite ("aggregate") categories such as "visible minority" into component parts, such as Black, Chinese, Arab etc.Footnote 5
Treating someone unfairly by either imposing a burden on them, or denying them a privilege, benefit or opportunity enjoyed by others, because of their race, citizenship, family status, disability, sex or other personal characteristics.Footnote 6
Fairness, impartiality, even-handedness. A distinct process of recognizing differences within groups of individuals, and using this understanding to achieve substantive equality in all aspects of a person's life.Footnote 7
Acknowledges the ways in which people's lives are shaped by their multiple and overlapping identities and social locations, which, together, can produce a unique and distinct experience for that individual or group, for example, creating additional barriers or opportunities.Footnote 8
Includes racism, stereotypes, prejudice, fear or acts of hostility directed towards individual Muslims or followers of Islam in general. In addition to individual acts of intolerance and racial profiling, Islamophobia can lead to viewing and treating Muslims as a greater security threat on an institutional, systemic and societal level.Footnote 9
Race is a "social construct." This means that society forms ideas of race based on geographic, historical, political, economic, social and cultural factors, as well as physical traits, even though none of these can legitimately be used to classify groups of people.Footnote 10
The process through which groups come to be socially constructed as races, based on characteristics such as ethnicity, language, economics, religion, culture, politics.Footnote 11
Racism is any individual action, or institutional practice which treats people differently because of their colour or ethnicity. This distinction is often used to justify discrimination.Footnote 12
Social participation
Involvement in meaningful activities (social, cultural, physical, educational, recreational, etc.) that increase one's sense of belonging and well-being.
Systemic or institutional racism
Consists of patterns of behaviour, policies or practices that are part of the social or administrative structures of an organization, and which create or perpetuate a position of relative disadvantage for racialized persons. These appear neutral on the surface but, nevertheless, have an exclusionary impact on racialized persons.Footnote 13

Appendix: examples of ongoing initiatives that contribute to addressing racism and discrimination

This list is not comprehensive, but rather presents a sampling of Government Initiatives:

Page details

Date modified: