Issue 2 — The Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat Newsletter
We are pleased to bring you our second issue of the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat newsletter.
This new edition includes actions taken by the Federal Secretariat alongside federal departments and different sectors of society. It focuses on what the Government of Canada and the Federal Secretariat are doing to fulfill our commitment to combat systemic racism and discrimination in all of its forms. It builds on the activities and initiatives that have been undertaken since we issued the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat newsletter first edition.
After marking its first anniversary in October 2020, the Federal Secretariat reaffirmed our commitment to drive and support anti-racism initiatives within the federal government. Part of this work has involved developing new organizational practices to transform how government tackles systemic racism. We are also actively working with different sectors, like business, labour, and academia. This is being done to boost coordination within and among sectors to tackle racial discrimination head-on.
The urgent need to boost targeted federal action against systemic racism has been further reinforced by horrendous incidents that have shaken the nation.
On May 28, 2021, the heartbreaking news went out of a burial site with 215 Indigenous children on the grounds of the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc Nation, or what was known as the former Kamloops Indian Residential School in British Columbia. Since then, the discovery of unmarked burial sites in Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan as well as Cranbrook in British Columbia. An explosion of antisemitic hate in May 2021 has seen many members of Jewish communities across the country fearing for their safety. The intersection of anti-Black racism, misogyny and Islamophobia has also seen Black Muslim women become the targets of violent attacks. On June 5, 2021, a violent homophobic assault on a racialized man in Toronto sent shockwaves across the nation, pointing to the intersection of racism and homophobia. Then, on June 6, 2021, in an act of terror, a white man killed four members of a family and seriously injured a child, simply because they were Muslim.
These incidents only compound the upswing in racism and hate that has affected Indigenous Peoples as well as Black, Asian, Muslim, Jewish, racialized and religious minority communities since the COVID-19 pandemic reached our shores.
The Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat is committed to doubling its efforts to work towards eliminating systemic racism, discrimination and hate in Canada. This will entail collaborating more closely with our partners and stakeholders across the federal government, provincial and territorial governments, communities with lived experience of racism, as well as key sectors of society. As part of that effort, we are laying the groundwork for a national anti-racism action plan to be released once Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy sunsets in 2022.
Learn more about:
- Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat
- Building a Foundation for Change: Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy, 2019-2022
We hope you find the information useful.
Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat
On this page
- At the Heart of the Policy Making Process
- Emancipation Day: Black History Transcends a Single Month
- The Federal Secretariat Launches its National Anti-Racism Summit Series
- The Government of Canada Taking Further Action against Systemic Racism
- Taking On Anti-Indigenous Racism
- An Asian Heritage Month Like None Other
- Marking the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: A Week of Activities across Canada
- Tackling Anti-Asian Racism
- 25 Years Later and the Future is Now: Celebrating a Historic Black History Month
- Mobilizing All Sectors to Combat Systemic Racism
- Our Spotlight Corner
- Disaggregating the COVID-19 Data: Statistics Canada Moves Forward
- Addressing Systemic Racism in the Federal Public Service
- Funding Opportunities
- Upcoming Events in 2021
- Thank You
At the Heart of the Policy Making Process
Since spring 2020, the Federal Secretariat has ramped up its whole of government leadership role by applying an anti-racism lens to the federal policymaking process. In working with federal departments and agencies to drive its whole of government approach to tackle racism, as laid out in Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy, the Federal Secretariat team actively participates in the design, implementation and review of new and existing program, policy, service and legislation at several departments and agencies. To do so, it draws extensively on disaggregated data and evidence provided by subject matter experts with lived experience of racism, as well as on the many recommendations received from hundreds of Indigenous, Black, Asian, Muslim, Jewish, racialized and religious minority stakeholders and partners with whom it engages.
Through a pilot project, the Federal Secretariat is working on a challenge and review function by developing a federal Anti-Racism Framework (ARF) for the federal public service. The Framework is being designed to enable federal organizations to create and review existing and new initiatives from an anti-racism, equity and human rights perspective. As a wraparound analytical framework and cyclical process, it is anticipated that ARF will empower public servants to advance systems change and strengthen institutional capacity to remove systemic barriers, identify gaps and generate positive outcomes for all people in Canada, including those with daily lived experience of racism. Several federal organizations are in the process of piloting ARF. In anticipation of its release, the Federal Secretariat is collaborating with institutions like the Canada School of Public Service and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council to begin offering seminars and training to over 7,000 federal public servants on anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Asian racism, antisemitism and soon Islamophobia.
Through its horizontal work, the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat is providing expertise as well as leadership and guidance to other departments on issues relating to combating racism from an intersectional perspective, in areas as varied as policy, program, communication, laws, and international issues.
Emancipation Day: Black History Transcends a Single Month
On March 24, 2021, the House of Commons unanimously voted to designate August 1 as Emancipation Day, which marks the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire. This took place in 1833. The Prime Minister declared, “To commemorate the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and honour the resilience of Black people in Canada, Aug. 1st has been designated Emancipation Day.” Through a unanimous vote, the House of Commons acknowledged the long history of slavery, which took place on Canadian soil and enslaved Indigenous Peoples and people of African descent. Parliamentarians also identified the International Decade for People of African Descent offering Canadians an opportunity to combat anti-Black racism in all spheres of society.
To mark the first ever national Emancipation Day, the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat worked with Black-led organizations across the country to convene Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast for a series of virtual celebratory activities. This included a youth-driven social media campaign and cultural activities campaign, offering virtual cultural and educational activities, in Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies, British Columbia and the North. The activities culminated in a national virtual celebration, held on August 1, 2021. It was produced by the National Film Board of Canada in collaboration with the Federal Secretariat. Led by a young filmmaker named Marcus Armstrong, who is the Director, Cinematographer and Editor of Introspective Films, the production featured Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Senator Wanda Bernard, and Black Canadian personalities, including historians, community leaders, artists and elected officials. The virtual celebration showcased the history of emancipation and key historical sites in Canada tied to the history of slavery and emancipation.
Watch the virtual national celebration for Emancipation Day on YouTube.
The Federal Secretariat Launches its National Anti-Racism Summit Series
The Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat has launched its anti-racism summit series. The summits bring together diverse groups of community and political leaders, academics, activists, and members with intersectional identities from racialized communities, religious minorities and Indigenous Peoples. Already the events have reached over 300,000 in Canada and in other parts of the world. During each summit, participants share critical ideas on ways government and communities can continue charting a path forward to combat racism and discrimination. The information gathered is helping to shape a new national anti-racism action plan to be launched in 2022.
National Summit on Antisemitism
On July 21, 2021, the Honourable Irwin Cotler, Canada’s Special Envoy for Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism, and the Honourable Bardish Chagger, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, convened a virtual National Summit on Antisemitism to identify ways in which organizations, communities, individuals, and the federal government can work together to increase public awareness, enhance community security, combat misinformation and online hate, and identify new measures necessary to combat antisemitism.
Organized by the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat, the summit brought together diverse Jewish community leaders, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, federal ministers, members of Parliament, and officials from provincial and municipal governments. The summit provided the opportunity for ministers, policymakers, and program administrators to listen to the concerns of community leaders, better understand the pervasiveness of antisemitism in Canada, and identify concrete steps the government can take to address the issues facing Jewish communities. Discussions also focussed on how the federal government should work with Jewish communities to implement or improve existing programs, as well as develop new proactive and responsive initiatives that address antisemitism and hate.
Following the summit, the Government of Canada committed to the following initial actions:
- Engage with Jewish communities on the Government’s next anti-racism action plan, which will be launched when the 2019–2022 Anti-Racism Strategy comes to an end;
- Explore potential adjustments to the Security Infrastructure Program (SIP), Anti-Racism Action Program (ARAP), Community Support, Multiculturalism, and Anti-Racism Initiatives Program (CSMARI) and other relevant/related programs to enhance effectiveness and to be more responsive to community needs. These programs will continue to dismantle white supremacist groups, monitor hate groups, and take action to combat hate everywhere, including online;
- Building on lessons learned to improve digital literacy and tackling misinformation;
- A renewed focus on dedicated resources to support the work within government to combat antisemitism and all forms of hate, including the work of Special Envoy, Irwin Cotler;
- Take a whole of government approach by working with departments across the government to take further action on these priorities.
Minister Chagger also announced support for two projects that address antisemitism and hate through the Anti-Racism Action Program. These projects aim to tackle online hate and employment-related barriers facing religious minorities, as well as support inter-community outreach and cultural sensitivity training.
National Summit on Islamophobia
On July 22, 2021, the Government of Canada held a virtual National Summit on Islamophobia. Organized by the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat, and convened by the Honourable Bardish Chagger, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, the summit provided a national platform for Muslim communities to identify concrete ways to combat Islamophobia across the country. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau opened the summit by reiterating the government’s solidarity with Muslim communities across Canada and its commitment to combat and denounce Islamophobia and all forms of racism and discrimination.
During the summit, federal ministers, Members of Parliament, and officials from provincial and municipal governments, listened to the lived experiences of Muslim Canadians from across the country. Attendees identified ways the federal government should work with Muslim communities to implement federal anti-racism initiatives that address Islamophobia and hate-fueled violence. During the summit, the Government of Canada committed to:
- Engage with Muslim communities on the government’s next Anti-Racism Action Plan, which will be launched when the 2019–2022 Anti-Racism Strategy comes to an end;
- Explore potential adjustments to the Security Infrastructure Program (SIP), Anti-Racism Action Program (ARAP), Community Support, Multiculturalism, and Anti-Racism Initiatives Program (CSMARI) and other relevant/related programs to enhance effectiveness and to be more responsive to community needs. These programs will continue to dismantle white supremacist groups, monitor hate groups, and take action to combat hate everywhere, including online;
- Building on lessons learned to improve digital literacy and tackling misinformation;
- A renewed focus on dedicated resources to support the work within government to combat Islamophobia and all forms of hate;
- The Honourable Diane Lebouthillier, Minister of National Revenue, has requested that the Taxpayers’ Ombudsperson conduct a systemic study to address the concerns of Muslim led charitable organizations;
- Take a whole-of-government approach by working with departments across the government to take further action on these priorities.
Minister Chagger also announced support for 8 projects tackling Islamophobia through the Anti-Racism Action Program. Additionally, the Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of International Trade and Minister of Small Business and Export Promotion, announced funding for 150 projects representing over $6 million to support communities at risk of hate-motivated crime through the Communities at Risk: Security Infrastructure Program (SIP).
The Government of Canada Taking Further Action against Systemic Racism
The Fall Economic Statement 2020 and the Federal Budget 2021 included historic investments and new initiatives to tackle systemic racism.
Historic Investments in Budget 2021
On April 19, 2021, the Federal Government released an unprecedented Budget, which promises to finish the fight against COVID-19 — and ensure a resilient economic recovery that creates jobs and growth for Canadians. To do so, it aims to take quick and decisive action, supporting people and businesses, and put it in the position to make historic investments in the recovery. Historic investments respond to many of the requests made by community stakeholders and partners, as well as leaders of different key sectors, during the many town halls the Federal Secretariat organized in 2020 and 2021. Measures are proposed for combating systemic racism, as it affects Indigenous Peoples, as well as Black, Asian, Muslim, Jewish, racialized and religious minority communities across Canada. This includes:
- $760.8 million for the Indigenous Community Support Fund to help First Nations, Inuit, Métis communities, and urban and off-reserve Indigenous organizations serving Indigenous Peoples meet the unique needs of their populations during the COVID-19 pandemic
- $200 million in 2021-22 to Employment and Social Development Canada to establish a new Black-led Philanthropic Endowment Fund to create a sustainable source of funding, including for Black youth and social purpose organizations, and help combat anti-Black racism and improve social and economic outcomes in Black communities.
- $172 million over five years, starting in 2021-22, with $36.3 million ongoing, to Statistics Canada to implement a Disaggregated Data Action Plan that will fill data and knowledge gaps including more representative data collection, enhance statistics on diverse populations, and support the government’s, and society’s, efforts to address systemic racism.
- $100 million in 2021-22 to the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative at Employment and Social Development Canada.
- $87.4 million over five years starting in 2021-22, and $18.6 million ongoing to modernize federal procurement and create opportunities for specific communities, including Indigenous-owned and Black-owned businesses, by diversifying Supporting the Mental Health of Those Most Affected by COVID-19 in Canada
- $21.5 million over five years, starting in 2021-22, for a Racialized Communities Legal Support Initiative to support organizations that provide free public legal education, information, legal services and advice to racialized communities.
- $26.8 million, in 2021-22, to enable participating provinces to maintain immigration and refugee legal aid support for asylum seekers, while protecting the efficiency and integrity of the asylum system.
- $12 million over three years, starting in 2021-22, to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to fund academic research into systemic barriers facing diverse groups, and it will help inform actions to address social disparities related to race, gender, and other forms of diversity.
- $11 million over two years, starting in 2021-22, to expand the impact of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation so it can scale up efforts to empower racialized Canadians and help community groups combat racism in all its forms, notably with the establishment of a national coalition to support Asian Canadian communities.
- $2 million in 2021-22 to Public Safety Canada to enhance its Communities at Risk: Security Infrastructure Program, which protects communities at risk of hate-motivated crimes, by providing not-for-profit organizations such as places of worship, schools, and community cultural centres with funding to enhance their security infrastructure.
Learn more about the historic federal Budget 2021.
The Fall Economic Statement 2020
On November 30, 2020, the Government of Canada released its Fall Economic Statement 2020, which included over $200 million of clear and meaningful investments in initiatives to combat systemic racism. These include $33 million over 3 years, starting in 2021-22, to support the Government of Canada’s 50-30 Challenge to address systemic racism in the private and public sector. A dedicated Centre for Diversity in the Federal Public Service at Treasury Board Secretariat will receive $12 million to accelerate and increase the government’s efforts to achieve a representative and inclusive public service. To strengthen efforts to combat racism and promote multiculturalism, the government is providing $50 million over 2 years, starting in 2021-22, to expand Canadian Heritage’s Community Support, Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Initiatives Program and Anti-Racism Action Program funding as well as expand the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat. Public Safety’s Communities at Risk: Security Infrastructure Program will receive $13 million over 5 years and $2.6 million ongoing to protect communities at risk of hate-motivated crimes.
Taking On Anti-Indigenous Racism
Since 2020, the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat has been collaborating with Indigenous organizations and communities to address the scourge of anti-Indigenous racism, affecting fields as varied as health, law enforcement, corrections, economic development and employment. Internal to government, the Federal Secretariat is establishing an interdepartmental table on anti-Indigenous racism, convening key departments working on Indigenous rights, reconciliation and anti-Indigenous racism. The table will be leveraging existing co-development mechanisms to work with Indigenous Peoples to combat systemic racism facing their communities across Canada. The Federal Secretariat has also been involved in the planning committee for, and offering remarks at, the latest national dialogue on anti-Indigenous Racism in Canada's healthcare system.
A Special Seminar on Anti-Indigenous Racism
On June 11, 2021, the Federal Secretariat held a seminar, open to the federal public service, entitled Mobilizing Research to Address Anti-Indigenous Racism and Discrimination. With the assistance of seasoned Indigenous researchers, the session shared key research findings to build greater awareness of the stories and lived experiences of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. Considerable emphasis was placed on exploring the ways in which colonization and the Indian residential schools shape systemic anti-Indigenous racism today. This involved helping public servants understand the pervasiveness of anti-Indigenous racism in Canada. Researchers also proposed specific actions the federal government can take to address anti-Indigenous racism. The presenters were:
- Dr. Lorna Williams, Associate Professor Emeritus, Indigenous Education, University of Victoria
- Dr. Crystal Fraser, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Arts - History & Classics Department, and Faculty of Native Studies, University of Alberta
- Dr. Verna St. Denis, Special Advisor on Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppression, University of Saskatchewan
Response to the Discovery of Unmarked Graves of Indigenous Children
Since the discovery of the unmarked graves of Indigenous children in Kamloops, in May 2021, the Government of Canada has committed to supporting the creation of a database that identifies children who died or went missing while at residential schools. The federal government will also create and maintain a National Residential School Student Death Register and maintain an online registry of residential school cemeteries.
Moreover, the Government has committed to assisting Indigenous communities in locating and memorializing children who died at residential schools. Discussions have begun on an engagement strategy to gain a better understanding of Indigenous family and community needs regarding how to move forward on the calls to actions regarding children who died or went missing while attending Indian residential schools. The federal government will also provide $4.88 million to the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations to help gather knowledge about the sites and support the ceremonies related to them.
An Asian Heritage Month Like None Other
For 2021, Asian Heritage Month held a unique timeliness as the nation sought to come to terms with a surge in anti-Asian racism tied to the COVID-19 pandemic. The recent upswing in anti-Asian harassment, violence and discrimination is deeply rooted in such things as the historic ‘yellow peril’ ideology, the Chinese head tax, the Komagata Maru and the internment of Japanese Canadians. Yet with the incidents taking on a new virulence, Asian communities across Canada called on the Federal Secretariat to leverage Asian Heritage Month as a platform to address the history and ongoing incidents of anti-Asian racism in Canada.
To that end, the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat worked closely with countless members of Asian communities on a groundbreaking array of celebratory events to mark Asian Heritage Month, under the theme "Recognition, Resilience, and Resolve." It embodied the myriad of sentiments that peoples of Asian descent in Canada have experienced and honored their contributions and their diverse stories, which are rooted in resilience and perseverance. It is also delivered a call to action for all Canadians to come together to combat all forms of anti-Asian racism and discrimination.
A Virtual Forum Series
A flagship activity during the Month was the Asian Heritage Month Virtual Forum Series. It featured roundtable discussions with pan-Asian grassroots, philanthropic, business, healthcare and civil society leaders. The event explored ways collaboration across sectors to combat misinformation and stereotypes, highlight issues of historical and current systemic racism, and promote solidarity across cultures.
First Forum: Combatting Misinformation & Harmful Stereotypes
Taking place on May 6, 2021, this virtual forum focused on the ways in which communities, organizations, leaders and individuals across sectors, can address anti-Asian misinformation and stereotypes, perpetuated through media, online platforms and behaviors. This session elicited tangible ideas, actions, resources and speaking points to create a force of change against anti-Asian racism and encourage pan-Asian solidarity amongst Asian communities. It began with a 30-minute roundtable discussion with community leaders. They were:
- Teresa Woo-Paw, Executive Director, Action! Chinese Canadians Together (ACCTFoundation)
- Samya Hassan, Executive Director, Council of Agencies Serving South Asians
- Fo Niemi, Executive Director, Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR)
- Shireen Salti, Executive Director, Canadian Arab Institute
It closed with a lively spoken-word performance by Natalie Lim.
Participants called on the Government of Canada to introduce penalties for social media giants, who are non-compliant in regulating their space, and provide financial support to organizations across Canada that are working to combat racism. They emphasized that the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat plays an important part in driving the federal government’s institutional change process in a methodical and integrated way. The Federal Secretariat will continue to connect the informed and impacted voices with policy makers to ensure that their perspectives and experiences are part of the decision-making process.
Second Forum: Building Allyship & Safer Communities
Held on May 18, 2021, this virtual forum focused on the ways in which racialized communities, Indigenous Peoples, organizations, leaders and individuals across sectors, can be allies in the struggle against addressing anti-Asian in Canada. It introduced new ideas to further alignment among Indigenous Peoples, Black communities as well as other racialized and religious minority groups and organizations toward enhancing safety for Asian communities. It also shed light on the diverse experiences of people of Asian descent in Canada and the role all Canadians can play in dismantling the systems that perpetuate anti-Asian racism. It began with a 30-minute panel focused on identifying ways to create greater synergies, information sharing, common learning and collaboration among diverse Asian communities, Indigenous Peoples and other racialized groups in Canada. The panelists were:
- Kevin Huang, Co-Founder & Executive Director, Hua Foundation
- Farida Mohamed, President, Canadian Council of Muslim Women
- Xixi Li, Executive Director, Chinese Family Services of Greater Montreal
- Fabrice Vil, Founder, Pour 3 points
It closed with a lively spoken-word performance by Christopher Tse.
Panelists spoke about white supremacy being at the root of racism and pitting racialized communities against each other. They spoke about how it erodes trust between communities and on occasion contributes to inter-community prejudice. Many participants shared that curriculum in Canada is heavily centered on the history and contributions of European settlers; therefore Canadians are not learning about the important contributions of Asian communities nor about the harms and violence enacted upon racialized communities.
Third Forum – Awareness to Action
On May 26, 2021, Minister Chagger moderated the final forum. It convened a pan-Asian dialogue with diverse Asian leaders and activists who discussed their bold programs and change initiatives aimed at supporting communities and fighting against anti-racism. It was kicked-off with a 30-minute roundtable discussion featuring:
- Julie Tran, Le Groupe d’entraide contre le racisme envers les Asiatiques du Québec
- Queenie Choo, CEO, S.U.C.C.E.S.S
- Barbara Lee, Founder, Elimin8hate
- Alex Sangha, Founder, Sher Vancouver
- Avvy Go, Clinic Director, Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Sajedeh Zaki, a spoken word artist, dancer and currently sits on the Board of Directors for Fresh Voices, rendered a powerful spoken word performance from the heart. She is a passionate advocate for marginalized immigrant and refugee youth.
Panelists recommended that the federal government embrace adequate, sustainable funding programs for anti-racism initiatives, aligned with coordinated strategies for long-term outcomes. Another recommendation was that the federal government work with the ministry of educations in all provinces and territories to add diversity education and the history of racism (including anti-Asian racism) in Canada and globally to curriculum in high schools, colleges, and universities. Calls were made for the collection and dissemination of more race-based data in consultation with communities. Many also shared personal stories of people of Asian descent being marginalized and excluded from mainstream media. They called for greater representation of people of Asian descent in front of and behind the camera. Speakers advocated for Asian media ownership and Asian representation in key decision-making roles.
A National Virtual Celebration
The Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat closed the Month on a high note with a national virtual celebration. Produced by the National Film Board, in partnership with the Federal Secretariat, the event recognized the achievements and contributions of people of Asian descent in Canada. Hosted by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Tova Roy, it featured community leaders, talented artists, tributes, and interviews with influential Canadians of Asian descent from across the country. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took part in the event, along with Minister Chagger; the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade; the Honourable Vivienne Poy, the first Canadian of Asian descent appointed to the Senate; and Member of Parliament Jagmeet Singh, the first Canadian of Asian descent to lead a major federal opposition party.
Watch the Asian Heritage Month national virtual celebration on YouTube.
Anti-Asian Racism Definition
Over the course of the month of May 2021, the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat worked with dozens of members of diverse Asian communities to develop a formal definition of anti-Asian racism. The definition, which was added to Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy, is the following:
“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.”
Marking the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: A Week of Activities across Canada
The Federal Secretariat convened hundreds of Canadians from coast-to-coast-to-coast for a series of national and grassroots activities to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Activities were kicked-off with a national town hall on systemic racism in the philanthropic sector. The event featured the voices of major changemakers in the charitable and philanthropic sectors including the Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada, the Indigenous Peoples Resilience Fund; the Foundation for Black Communities; the Black Opportunity Fund; the BlackNorth Initiative; the Laidlaw Foundation and the Hua Foundation. The event was hosted in partnership with the United Way Centraide Canada; the Philanthropic Foundations Canada; and Community Foundations of Canada. This event was then followed by inter-generational and art-focused activities that took place over the course of the week in the Northwest Territories, Manitoba, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. Each virtual event amplified the work and voices of Black, Indigenous, Asian, racialized and religious minority community innovators who held artist talks, panel discussions, performances, and grassroots leaders’ roundtables to showcase the powerful intersection of art, community and anti-racism work.
Learn more about the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Tackling Anti-Asian Racism
The Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat is pursuing its efforts to combat anti-Asian racism across Canada. Over the course of 2020, it worked with the Digital Citizenship Initiative at Canadian Heritage, which supports grassroots Asian community organizations combating anti-Asian racism. Several organizations received funding to lead innovative and wide-reaching campaigns to tackle systemic, institutional and individual forms of racism against people of Asian descent across the country. Through the Digital Citizen Contribution Program (DCCP)-Emergency Support Fund for Cultural, Heritage and Sport Organizations (ESF), the following projects were supported.
Asian Environmental Association-Hua Foundation ($64,660)
The Hua Foundation’s ‘Combating COVID-19 disinformation in Vancouver's Chinese and Vietnamese language communities’ project aimed to combat disinformation around COVID-19 in Chinese and Vietnamese language communities. The project focused on ensuring that accurate, timely, and credible information was made available in Chinese (Simplified and Traditional), Vietnamese, and Tagalog. Hua foundation established a coalition of ethnocultural organizations to ensure cultural and language nuances were taken into consideration for all aspects of this knowledge mobilization project. It set up a grassroots network of community members to capture and share disinformation that they were coming across. The project team then conducted research and produced knowledge to counter the disinformation. The project resulted in: the distribution of 700 posters and 4,200+ pamphlets that included health information and how to identify disinformation, website traffic of over 12,000 page visits, dissemination of knowledge/information through their project partners to 2,000+ individuals who otherwise might not have access to credible information and the tools to counter disinformation that they hear and belief, and distribution partnerships with 13 language community groups.
Learn more about the C19 Response Coalition.
ACCT Foundation ($309,000)
ACCT Foundation’s ‘Mobilizing community capacity and community research to address the collateral damage of COVID-19 pandemic – Anti-Asian Racism’ project is addressing both individual and community impacts of misinformation and racism, and ultimately seeking community based and systemic solutions to address these challenges. ACCT Foundation implemented an avenue for citizens to report and share racist incidences by text message or online on the ACT2endracism website. The project has resulted in the development and convening of the ACT2endracism (Asian Canadians Together to end racism) network, a coalition of concerned citizens and 40+ community groups from across Canada. Early results of this project include the convening of four large network meetings with over 200 people participating from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. A public awareness campaign titled “Speak Up! ACT2enddracism.ca” was held to raise awareness about reporting and speak up about racism. The national campaign distributed over 2,500 physical masks and over 40,000 impressions (shared using a virtual filter on social media), 1,200 posters on anti-racism concepts, 10,142 brochures on responding to racism, 11,225 bookmarks promoting the reporting line. In honor of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, ACCT Foundation held six webinars on human rights and employment rights in first languages (Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, English) for over 200 attendees. Also, 2 webinars were held to engage parents and young children and also youth on the topic or racism over 100 families attended these events.
Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) ($68,100)
CRARR’s ‘COVID-19: Say No to Discrimination: Civic Information and Mobilization Initiative enables citizens and communities to critically process and react to misleading, biased and hateful or harmful information. CRARR provides bilingual accessible, updated and correct information to targeted segments of the population considered vulnerable during and after the COVID-19 pandemic related to the public health emergency, discrimination, hate and other threats to basic rights and freedoms. CRARR’s information and materials are accessible both official languages and sign language, and in ethnic languages where resources permit, including Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese), Vietnamese, Arabic, Farsi, Hindi, and Inuktitut. Through the Canadian Center for Research-Action on Race Relation website, individuals are able to find more information on how CRARR can provide support and resources to those who confidentially report a discrimination incident. In January 2021, CRARR launched its “Voices of the Victims” video series on its YouTube channel and Facebook page, which documents the experiences of Asian Canadians in Montreal who have fallen victim to anti-Asian racism and violence as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic (CSALC) ($301,904)
CSALC’s ‘Empowering, Engaging and Equipping Canadians to Combat Anti-Asian Racism through Online Resources and Media’ project is conducting a study on the use of online resources and social media to empower, equip and engage Canadians in combatting anti-Asian disinformation, threats, racism and discrimination. CSALC implemented a multi-lingual website for reporting racism incidents called Fight COVID-19 Racism, which includes an ongoing multimedia timeline of anti-Asian incidents during the pandemic and an incidents map showing geographical data across Canada. 1,150 incidents have been reported up to the end of February 2021. This tool also provides resource list: mental health, income support, legal support and other information. CSALC launched the “Stop the Spread of Racism” social media campaign in which 65 high profile Canadian celebrities, politicians, social media influencers, business leaders, supporters and partners participated. The “Stop the Spread of Racism” message reached well over 600,000 users around the world. In April 2020, CSALC conducted a phone poll of 1,300 individuals in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal. Results, showing there is a pervasive stereotype and racist perception that Chinese/Asian Canadians were responsible for the COVID virus, were extensively covered by Canadian and international media. As a result, by October 2020, CSALC updated the resources on the Chinese Canadian National Council - For Social Justice website to launch #FaceRace that provides online resources on the historical and current context of anti-Asian racism in Canada, accounts of allies and evidence of anti-Asian racist incidents.
The Federal Secretariat will continue to engage directly with Asian community organizations and leaders to ensure a whole of government approach so that the Government of Canada continues to tackle systemic anti-Asian racism in its programs, services, legislation and policies.
25 Years Later and the Future is Now: Celebrating a Historic Black History Month
Black History Month 2021 shaped up to be a not-to-be-missed series of event saluting the International Decade for People of African Descent. With the Federal Secretariat’s leadership and Black community members, federal departments and organizations hosted a number of historic celebrations, which marked the 25th anniversary since the House of Commons officially recognized the Month, thanks to the work of Canada’s first Black woman federal cabinet minister and Black woman Member of Parliament, the Honourable Jean Augustine. This year’s theme, “The Future is Now,” spoke to the work that Black communities in Canada are doing right now in many spheres of society to ensure that we build a consciously more inclusive future for all. The theme caught on nationally and even internationally, as the festivities at Canadian Heritage alone ended up reaching over 1 million people in Canada and around the world, compared to the 2020-activities, which reached 150,000 people.
The Federal Black Youth Forum: The Future is Now
On February 23, 2021, the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat hosted the Federal Black Youth Forum: The Future is Now. With hundreds of youth from across the country in attendance, the virtual discussion gave voice to concerns and recommendations from Black Canadian youth, with respect to advancing policy on such issues as employment, justice, social participation, community safety, and mental health. The Forum was part of our ongoing commitment to recognizing and finding solutions to the unique barriers faced by Black youth and Black youth-serving organizations across the country.
Significantly, five federal ministers and two parliamentary secretaries participated in the Forum to engage in a dialogue with the young people. They were:
- The Honourable Bardish Chagger, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth;
- The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry;
- The Honourable Steven Guilbeault, Minister of Canadian Heritage;
- The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development;
- The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion; and
- Greg Fergus, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, to the President of the Treasury Board and to the Minister of Digital Government as well as Chair of the Parliamentary Black Caucus.
- Arif Virani, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.
The Forum included performances by singer Aiza Ntibarikure with a song called « L’Univers est à moi », and poet Peace Olanipekun shared a poem entitled “Black Pride”. Speakers included Jeremy Zloty, Aïcha Baldé, Andrew Anderson, Yamila Franco, and Ivan Touko, who presented their program and policy recommendations to the ministers and parliamentary secretaries.
Black History Month Virtual Celebration: The Future Is Now
The Federal Secretariat helped organize, produce, and convene a major virtual celebration to close Black History Month on a high note. The event streamed live on February 28, 2021, on the Canadian Heritage Facebook page, in partnership with the National Arts Centre. Reaching over 400,000 people, watching across Canada and abroad in 23 countries, the high-energy happening highlighted the ongoing contributions of Black communities in Canada, including youth, frontline healthcare and essential workers, and academics. In addition, for the first time, the official event celebrated the life-saving contributions of Black people with precarious immigration status.
Produced by Reelworld Screen Institute and hosted by Isabelle Racicot, the virtual celebration was designed to feel like a multimedia mini-festival, which paid tribute to the Honourable Jean Augustine. A cameo appearance by Canadian sprinter Andre De Grasse as well as moving performances by Krimah, Thompson, Egbo Egbo, William Leathers, and Vox Sambou, contributed a celebratory tone to the virtual event. The Honourable Jean Augustine shared with us her story about how her perseverance brought Canada to a place where it could officially and nationally recognize Black History Month.
Watch the national Black History Month virtual celebration on the Canadian Heritage YouTube page.
Mobilizing All Sectors to Combat Systemic Racism
The Government of Canada knows that systemic racism is multifaceted and layered and to combat it in all of its forms, it requires a coordinated, multi-sectoral, and multidisciplinary whole-of-society approach. To that end, we kick-started a series of sectoral town halls beginning in September of 2020. They explored the state of systemic racism in different sectors, identify opportunities to enhance intra-sector collaboration against discrimination, and find ways to foster greater coordination between sectors. The aim is to come together, pool resources, and boost cooperation to stamp out racism across Canada.
To date, the Federal Secretariat has engaged the labour, academic, housing, human rights, legal, philanthropic, health, public and business sectors. It also continues to engage communities directly affected by racism on specific issues related to COVID-19 and an equitable post-pandemic recovery.
Learn more about our past town halls:
- The Workplace under Scrutiny in Town Hall with the Labour Sector, October 8, 2020
- Systemic Racism in Housing the Focus of a Virtual Town Hall, October 15, 2020
- Systemic Racism in Academia the Subject of Town Hall, November 19, 2020
- Business Leaders Tackle Systemic Racism in Corporate Canada, November 26, 2020
- Systemic Racism in the Legal Sector, March 5, 2021
- Anti-Racism within the Healthcare Sector a Virtual Town Hall, March 16th, 2021
- Systemic Racism in the Federal Public Service the Focus of a Town Hall, April 16th, 2021
Our Spotlight Corner
For each edition of the newsletter, the Federal Secretariat profiles individuals who are having a transformative impact in communities across the country. For this edition, we decided to do a return on Asian Heritage Month by highlighting the achievements of people who continue to shape efforts to combat many forms of racism and discrimination across Canada and abroad.
Avvy Go is the Clinic Director of the Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, and a steering committee member of Colour of Poverty Colour of Change. Avvy has worked tirelessly to promote racial equity through her legal work and community advocacy for decades. Over the last year, working in partnership with the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice, Avvy has been in the forefront to combat the rising tide of anti-Asian racism by educating the public about historical and contemporary forms of racism in Canada and by pushing for strong government actions for systemic change. In 1988, Avvy Go was the Acting Executive Director of the Chinese Canadian National Council (CCNC) and President of the Toronto Chapter of the CCNC in 1989. She was deeply involved in the Redress Campaign for the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act. By 1992, Avvy Go was appointed the Executive Director of the Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic. Avvy Go was elected as a Bencher of Law Society of Upper Canada in 2001, 2006, and again in 2013. Concerned by increased racialized and feminization of poverty, Avvy Go co-founded in 2007 the Colour of Poverty Campaign (COPC) which sought to address the increasing racialization of poverty. And very recently, on August 9, she was appointed as a Judge to the Federal Court.
Mr. Fo Niemi is the co-founder and, executive director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), a small non-profit civil rights organization based in Montreal. He is fluently bilingual and multicultural, and a graduate in social work from McGill University. Mr. Niemi has held numerous part-time positions in the last two decades, including the Chair of the Montreal Urban Community Transit Corporation's Complaints Examination Committee (1987-1990) and the Quebec Human Rights Commission (1991-2003). During his term at the human rights commission, he chaired the Commission's public hearings in 1993 on discrimination and violence against gays and lesbians. Other professional and volunteer activities including advisory roles within public and non-profit agencies such as the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Quebec Treasury Board. He has also served as Chairman of the Board of AIDS Community Care Montreal (1996-1997) and the Court Challenges Program of Canada (1997); as member of the board of directors of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (1996-1998) and the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (2001-2005) and as member of the Canadian Bar Association's Committee on Racial Equality in the Legal Profession (2003-2004); the Advisory Committee to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada (2005), the City of Montreal Task Force on Democracy (2003-2006), the Quebec Government's Task Force on Racial Profiling (2003-2006) and a committee of the Quebec Community Groups Network on the English-speaking community of Montreal (2009-2010). He is the recipient of the Quebec Justice Award in 1995, the Queen's Commemorative Silver Jubilee Medal in 2002 (from Dr. Irwin Cotler, MP) and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 (from Senator Joan Fraser).
Teresa Woo Paw
Teresa Woo Paw is a tireless advocate for diversity, social inclusion and active civic participation. She is known for her ability to bring diverse people together to join efforts, break new grounds and create bigger impacts in society. She is the first Canadian woman of Asian descent elected to the Calgary Board of Education (1995-2000), the Alberta Legislature and Cabinet Minister in Alberta (2008-2015). Teresa founded and built eight non-profit entities over a span of 40 plus years. Teresa was appointed Chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation by the Governor in Council in 2018 and is also Chair of ACCT Foundation; Founding member of the ACT2EndRacism National Network; Chair of Asian Heritage Foundation; Board member of Calgary Arts Foundation; and Advisory Committee members of City of Calgary’s Tomorrow’s Chinatown and Lougheed House. Teresa is recipient of numerous awards including the Chinese Canadian Legend (2016), YWCA Women of Distinction Award (1998), Immigrants of Distinction Award (1998) and Queen Elizabeth’s 60th Jubilee Award (2012).
Recognizing the growing gap in engaging Chinese-Canadian youth on environmental, social, and political issues, Kevin Huang co-founded Hua Foundation with the goal of increasing community participation through youth empowerment opportunities. He is now the Executive Director of Hua Foundation, and his work has ranged from scaling culturally sensitive consumer-based conservation strategies through a project called Shark Truth, advancing municipal food policy to address inclusion and racial equity, to providing supports for youth from ethnocultural communities to reclaim their cultural identity on their own terms. Kevin organizes in Vancouver’s Chinatown and serves on committees with Vancity Credit Union, Vancouver Foundation, the City of Vancouver, and the Province of British Columbia. Most recently, he has been spending his time directing community based COVID-19 response projects that address language and cultural gaps. Kevin Huang oversees Hua Foundation’s external relationships with youth, policy makers, community organizations, and institutions.
Disaggregating the COVID-19 Data: Statistics Canada Moves Forward
In late March of 2020, the Federal Secretariat and the Department of Women and Gender Equality set-up the interdepartmental Taskforce on Equity-Seeking Communities and COVID-19 to address the ways in which the pandemic is disproportionally affecting populations historically exposed to social and economic exclusion and systemic barriers. One of the key areas of focus for the Taskforce was finding ways to enhance the collection and availability of disaggregated data, to grasp the distinct impact of the pandemic on Indigenous Peoples and equity-deserving populations, including racialized communities and religious minorities. Statistics Canada has been working diligently in this area and has recently released a year-in-review compendium entitled COVID-19 in Canada: A One-year Update on Social and Economic Impacts. The report offers disaggregated data on health, social, and economic impacts of the pandemic as well as on Canadians’ response to COVID-19.
Addressing Systemic Racism in the Federal Public Service
The tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020, as well as the horrendous death of Joyce Echaquan in Joliette Quebec, among other tragic incidents, brought systemic racism to the fore as an issue to be dealt with by the federal public service. As a result, several federal initiatives have been initiated since 2020 to boost diversity, address the specific needs and realities of Indigenous, Black, Asian and other equity-deserving public servants, and remove lingering systemic barriers.
The Centre on Diversity and Inclusion
The Centre on Diversity and Inclusion (CDI) was established in September 2020 as part of the efforts to ensure an inclusive federal public service that reflects the diversity of Canada. The Centre is dedicated to enabling departments and agencies in achieving diverse and inclusive workplaces by developing specific public service-wide initiatives; and promoting a coherent and coordinated approach to fostering inclusion, co-developed with diversity networks. This work is critical to making sure our policies, programs and services are sensitive to the needs of all employees. It seeks to:-
- lead new and innovative initiatives on diversity and inclusion
- develop innovative solutions for recruitment and talent management
- coordinate with stakeholders whose policies and programs affect the diversity and inclusion agenda
- co-develop solutions with the many diversity and inclusion networks across the public service
- lead change management and monitor our ongoing progress on these priorities and commitments.
The work of CDI is taking place in a context of increased engagement across the federal public service to tackle systemic racism, equity and inclusion.
The Clerk Calls for Action on Racism, Equity and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service
In February 2021, the Clerk of the Privy Council Office released an unprecedented call to action on anti-racism, equity, and inclusion in the Federal Public Service. It pointed to the need for renewed leadership in the Public Service to increase diversity and tackle systemic barriers by calling for leaders of the Public Service to:
- Appoint Indigenous, Black, and racialized employees to and within the Executive Group through career development and talent management;
- Sponsor high-potential Indigenous, Black, and racialized employees to prepare them for leadership roles;
- Support the participation of Indigenous, Black, and racialized employees in leadership development programs (for example, the Executive Leadership Development Program) and career development services (for example, official language training); and
- Recruit highly qualified candidates from Indigenous communities, Black, and racialized communities from across all regions of Canada.
Deputy Ministers Commitments on Diversity and Inclusion, 2020-2021
In 2020, Deputy Ministers also came together to develop a series of commitments on diversity and inclusion, under the leadership of Gina Wilson, Deputy Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth at Canadian Heritage. The commitments acknowledge that the Federal Public Service is stronger and most effective when it reflects the diversity of populations in Canada, which it serves. That is why the 2020/2021 Deputy Minister Commitments on Diversity and Inclusion expand on actions meant to tackle racism and improve representation at all levels. The Commitments cover three main areas: Changing the Public Service Culture, Reflecting Diversity and Promoting Inclusion, and Updating Policy and Programs. The Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat assisted with the development of these Commitments.
Learn more about the Deputy Ministers Commitments on Diversity and Inclusion.
The Government of Canada is empowering communities across the country to respond to systemic racism and racial discrimination through many initiatives, including the programs, initiatives, and funding opportunities outlined on the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat website.
Upcoming Events in 2021
In fall 2021, the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat will convene the National Summit on Combating Hate and Racism. The gathering will bring together Indigenous Peoples as well as members of Black, Asian, Muslim, Jewish, LGBTQ2, racialized and religious minority communities from across the country. Together, they will discuss with the Prime minister, cabinet ministers, Parliamentary Secretaries, and senators the need for Canadians to come together to boost national efforts to combat hate and racism in Canada. Participants will also provide recommendations to the federal government on ways it can be more effective in taking the necessary steps to curb incidents of hate and racism, which spiked under COVID-19. Part of the event will be live-streamed on the Canadian Heritage Facebook page. Additional summits will be announced in fall 2021.
Thank you for your interest in the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat. We look forward to collaborating with you.
To submit policy recommendations related to the Anti-Racism Summit Series, please contact: email@example.com.
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