Deepening Understanding, Developing Ideas: A Cross-Country Conversation on Anti-Racism

Vision

The Government of Canada’s vision seeks to foster and promote an inclusive society where everyone is able to fully participate in the economic, cultural, social and political spheres.

Context

Achieving this vision is not just a way to build a better country, it also addresses the human cost of racism and discrimination. As the Prime Minister noted on March 21, 2017 on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, “racism devalues individuals, divides communities, and breeds fear and animosity throughout society.”Footnote 1

Building a society that is free of racism requires ongoing commitment. Our priorities and activities need to be regularly updated to make sure that the most pressing needs and promising opportunities are being addressed. Over the years, the Government of Canada has put in place a number of laws, policies and programs that focus on overcoming racism and discrimination, including the Charter of Rights & Freedoms, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act and Canada’s Action Plan Against Racism (CAPAR).

Earlier this year, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage released a report entitled “Taking Action Against Systemic Racism And Religious Discrimination Including Islamophobia”. This report made 30 recommendations, including a call to reinstate and update CAPAR (which sunset in 2010) through engagement with civil society, grassroots organizations, and interfaith groups. Shortly after the release of this report, Budget 2018 announced funding for a cross-country engagement on a new national anti-racism strategy.

What we know

Racism and discrimination can exist in all parts of our lives, from the unconscious biases that may influence how we relate to one another, to the under/overrepresentation of racialized communities and Indigenous Peoples in institutions such as prison, child welfare, etc. Acknowledging that racism and discrimination are a part of our lived reality is a critical first step to action.

It is clear that racialized communities’ experiences with racism and discrimination vary. Further, applying an intersectional lens reveals a complex picture of the way that different groups and individuals are excluded and harmed. Consider the following:

Key terms

In the context of this engagement, we will be using the following working definitions developed by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and the Ontario Human Rights Commission:

Race: 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

Racialization: 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

Intersectionality: The idea that, in individuals, multiple identities (for example, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability) intersect to create a whole that is different from the component identities.Footnote 12

Equity: 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 13

Discrimination: 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 14

Systemic or institutional discrimination: 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 15

Social participation: Involvement in meaningful activities (social, cultural, physical, educational, recreational, etc.) that increase one’s sense of belonging and well-being.

What has been done by others

In recent years, other levels of government have undertaken work to better understand the prevalence and experiences of racism and discrimination in Canadian communities and develop strategies to counter them. Examples include:

What has been done before and what we’re doing now

The Government of Canada has taken several steps intended to combat racism and discrimination, including:

Community Support, Multiculturalism, and Anti-Racism Initiatives Program Funding: annual $8.5 million investment through the Department of Canadian Heritage in projects and events that:

Budget 2018: in addition to the $2 million intended to support the anti-racism engagement:

Canada’s Action Plan Against Racism (2005 – 2010): CAPAR was launched in 2005 following the 2001 World Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa. CAPAR was a five-year horizontal plan led by the Department of Canadian Heritage with the goal of ensuring that all Canadians were included in society and the economy through the elimination of barriers to full and active participation and opportunity.

CAPAR included more than 40 initiatives and strategies that were part of existing budgets and programs in more than 20 departments and agencies. In addition, $53.6 million in funding was allocated to nine new initiatives within four departments (Department of Canadian Heritage, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, and the Department of Justice).Footnote 16

While CAPAR’s evaluation confirmed that there was a need to combat racism and discrimination and that this was an appropriate role for the Government to undertake, the evaluation also revealed challenges in measuring CAPAR’s performance and the performance of the initiatives it supported, as well as challenges in managing its horizontal governance. For more information on CAPAR, review the Evaluation of Canada’s Action Plan Against Racism.

There are other federal initiatives currently underway that focus on issues tied to racism and discrimination and/or a focus on Indigenous Peoples and racialized communities, including:

What kinds of things we can do

There are many ways in which the Government of Canada can address racism and many tools it can use to do so. These include:

Anti-racism engagement

Budget 2018 announced funding for a cross-country engagement on the development of a new federal anti-racism strategy.

Goals & objectives

Building off what has been done before (for example, CAPAR), the purpose of this engagement is to inform the development of a new federal anti-racism strategy with recommendations from Canadians, especially those with lived experiences of racism and discrimination.

The engagement will pursue this goal through the following objectives:

Principles

To guide this work, the following principles have been applied to the engagement’s design:

Themes

In order to focus the engagement on those issues where racism most directly intersects with people’s lives, as well as those policy areas that most closely overlap with the Government of Canada’s jurisdiction, the following themes will be the main priority for the engagement:

Employment & Income Supports

For example:

Social Participation

For example:

Justice

For example:

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