Lessons learned from Canada’s 2005 action plan against racism

In 2005, the federal government launched Canada’s Action Plan against Racism (CAPAR), which constituted the nation’s first horizontal federal approach to combating racism with a five-year $56 million budget for programming. Its goal was to help ensure that all Canadians were included and had a role in society and the economy regardless of background, race or ethnicity; that all barriers to full and active participation and opportunity were eliminated; and that the justice system was equipped to respond to overt manifestations of racism in society. 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). The funded initiatives can be found in the chart below.

Initiative Dept 5-year planned budget Purpose / description
Inclusive Institutions Initiative (III) PCH $12,124,700 over 5 years; $2,847,200 ongoing III aimed to support and encourage federal institutions to take the priorities and needs of ethno-cultural and ethno-racial communities into consideration when developing new and implementing existing policies, programs and services.
Anti-Racism Test Case Initiative (ARTCI) PCH $268,784 for year 1 (excluding funds for implementation) ARTCI was envisioned to provide funding to challenge provincial/territorial legislation, practice or policies that allegedly violated the racial equality provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms where such cases were expected to be of potential national significance.
Nationally Standardized Data Collection Strategy on Hate-Motivated Crime (Data Collection Strategy) PCH $2,289,200 over 5 years; $332,200 ongoing The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) delivers the Data Collection Strategy. Through the Strategy, police report hate-motivated crime to CCJS. The goal of the strategy is to provide both the public and policy makers with key indicators on racial discrimination.
Law Enforcement Aboriginal and Diversity Network (LEAD) PCH $575,800 over 4 years LEAD was founded in 2003 as a non-profit network of law enforcement agencies and individuals from all jurisdictions in Canada to raise the professional standard in serving Aboriginal and ethno-cultural and ethno-racial communities. Under CAPAR, PCH signed an agreement with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police to support a number of LEAD-based activities on a 50-50 cost shared basis. Funding included support for a coordinator, and activities such as administrative functions/supplies and meetings, communication plans and tools, research, consultations, and website development.
Welcoming Communities Initiative (WCI) CIC $17.6 million over 5 years; $4.4 million ongoing WCI aimed at creating a true sense of belonging and shared citizenship for immigrants. The Initiative focuses on working with non-governmental organizations and provincial partners to foster a welcoming environment in communities for newcomers.
Racism-Free Workplace Strategy (RFWS) HRSDC $13 million over 5 years; $3 million ongoing The goal of RFWS was to facilitate the integration of skilled individuals in Canadian workplaces by developing tools, guidelines and education materials for employers, practitioners, managers, employees, and the general public. Activities are intended to reduce discriminatory barriers faced by visible minorities and Aboriginals in Canadian workplaces.
Race-Based Issues in the Justice System (RBIJS) DOJ $6.7 million over 5 years (distributed amongst the three Justice Initiatives); $500,000 ongoing RBIJS aimed to improve fair treatment of Aboriginals and visible minorities in the justice system.
Interventions for Victims and Perpetrators of Hate Crimes (IVPHC) DOJ $6.7 million over 5 years (distributed amongst the three Justice Initiatives); $500,000 ongoing This initiative aimed to identify and respond to the special needs and requirements of victims of hate crimes.
Countering Internet-Based Hate Crimes (CIBHC) DOJ $6.7 million over 5 years (distributed amongst the three Justice Initiatives); $500,000 ongoing CIBHC was intended to detect and address the issue of hate speech on the internet. The initiative also aimed to provide public legal education and information on the definition of hate propaganda to enhance the capacity of the public and Internet Service Providers to recognize hate speech.

The strategy came with a secretariat housed at the Department of Canadian Heritage, which was the departmental lead in coordinating and monitoring federal action against racism.

A 2010 audit of the strategy revealed several shortcomings with the strategy:

In 1971, the Government adopted Multiculturalism Policy as a response to the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism’s chapter on “Other Groups” and the related political pressures by non-French and non-British ethnic groups. In 1988, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act was passed, acknowledging multiculturalism as a fundamental characteristic of Canadian society and thereafter having a significant impact on the decision-making process of the federal government.

From 1988 until 2006, the Program’s objectives focused on developing inclusive policies and responding to diversity, especially in terms of the inclusion of ethno-cultural/racial minorities into Canadian society. This was amplified by the legislative framework of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982) and the Employment Equity Act (1986).

After 9/11, greater concerns regarding integration and security led to a distinct shift towards citizenship linked to Canadian identity as a means to strengthen integration and reduce threats of radicalization and extremism. The concept of “rights” had always been a part of multiculturalism; however, “responsibilities” were then added to reinforce integration. Furthermore, under the Harper government, preference for the term "pluralism” led to the further redefining of multiculturalism around Canadian values a means to improve social cohesion. There was further emphasis on shared values anchored in Canadian history.Footnote 1

After the Multiculturalism Program transferred to CIC in 2008, Program objectives began to officially change starting in 2009, becoming fully implemented by 2010.Footnote 2 Objectives that targeted ethno-cultural/racial minorities became objectives that targeted all individuals.

The Multiculturalism Program since 2010 has been comprised of four key components:

In terms of Inter-Action funding, participants reported increased knowledge and awareness (immediate outcome). However, as funding recipients were not required to report against specific outcome indicators, there was a lack of consistent performance data which would enable the assessment of the contribution of Inter-Action projects to the achievement of the Program’s objectives and expected outcomes.Footnote 4

For the public education and promotion component, over 100 events were held across Canada between 2008-09 and 2010-11. Also, award ceremonies were held annually for the Paul Yuzyk Award, the Mathieu Da Costa Challenge and the National Video Challenge.Footnote 5 However, the Mathieu Da Costa Challenge and the National Video Challenge were both cancelled in 2011-12 due to a lack of participation and limited funding; the Paul Yuzyk Award was put on hold in 2015.Footnote 6

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