Speaking Notes for the Honourable Bardish Chagger, Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Youth before the Committee of the Whole (Senate) to consider the Government’s role in ending systemic racism

June 2020
Length: 5 minutes

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Madam Chair, Honourable Senators.

We are gathered today on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinabeg.

I am pleased that we can meet today to work together to help Canadians embrace diversity and promote inclusion, so we can eradicate systemic racism, including anti-Black, anti-Indigenous and Anti-Asian racism.

I am accompanied by my colleagues:

Also joining us today are:

What is the situation?

Recently, we have seen how concerned and shocked Canadians are about racism against Black people, Indigenous people and people of Asian descent. Across Canada, thousands of us have taken a knee to demand change and an end to systemic racism.

Recent tragic incidents that took place outside and inside Canada inspired people to gather more and more important data to expose racism and get the real picture about what’s happening. There is not a day going by without new uncomfortable statistics released in the media.

Beyond data, we have disturbing video footage and thousands of saddening testimonies from Indigenous people, Black Canadians, other racialized people and religious minorities experiencing racism again and again.

The real picture is clear and there is no avoiding this stark fact: systemic racism remains an alarming issue in Canada.

As the Prime Minister has said, “systemic racism is something that touches every corner of our country.”

Now, more than ever, is the time for every individual to pause and reflect upon the Canada that we want.

I think many people are being awakened to what is taking place and what their role is in building a more inclusive Canada.

While we are making important progress, we have a lot of work to do here.

If we as Canadians truly want an inclusive Canada, every single one of us must step up, be allies, and do what we can to make workplaces, communities, and public spaces safer and more inclusive.

Madam Chair, please allow me to quote and amplify Senator Brian Francis’s important advice to every Canadian willing to help fight systemic racism:

“Allyship is a continuous journey of learning, understanding and action. We all need to do the work. While the work ahead can be uncomfortable and daunting, failing to act is no longer an option.”Footnote 1

What is being done?

Part of the solution is the important work you do in this Chamber and what we do as a Government to put an end to racism and discrimination.

A very positive way to do this is to strengthen diversity and inclusion so that all Canadians can participate fully as members of Canadian society.

Our Government takes this to heart. This is why we now have a full minister devoted to Diversity and Inclusion and Youth.

That’s the mandate I have received from the Prime Minister and from the Canadian people.

It is my responsibility to ensure that every decision we’re making is made with diversity and inclusion in mind.

A key part of this mandate is advancing Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy. A $45 million investment that takes immediate steps in combatting racism and discrimination.

The pandemic is not stopping us. Our commitment to building long-term changes in supporting racialized communities, religious minorities and Indigenous Peoples is unwavering.

We keep improving policies, initiatives and practices right now in our federal institutions.

The Anti-Racism Secretariat established in October 2019 has already started on its work.

As we speak, it is engaging collaboratively with provinces and territories, civil society, Indigenous Peoples, and stakeholders from diverse communities, addressing, among other things, anti-Black, anti-Indigenous and anti-Asian racism, as well as antisemitism and Islamophobia.

Its goal is to help identify systemic barriers and gaps in federal policies, programs and services, help government kick-start new initiatives and develop further areas for action.

Though racialized groups show great resilience, we know that the pandemic has made them more vulnerable.

To address this concern, the Secretariat set up the government-wide Equity-Seeking Communities & COVID-19 Taskforce.

It helps ensure the federal response to COVID-19 is adapted to the needs of equity-seeking communities.

Also, we have made significant new investments in Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism programming.

In 2019-2020, our Multiculturalism programs supported 622 events and projects in communities for a total of over $30 million.

This year and next, we will continue to support racialized communities, religious minorities and Indigenous peoples on the ground who have expertise in addressing racism and discrimination and their effects.

In government, we understand that to fight systemic racism effectively, we must fight it on all fronts. We must address the problem as a whole and minimize blind spots.

That is why I am working with my colleagues Ministers Blair and Hussen, who are as committed as I am to eliminating racism.

Madam Chair, if you wish, they can tell you about other anti-racism initiatives of our government. For example:

One aspect of fighting systemic racism is addressing gaps in data and evidence.

The lack of detailed, disaggregated data as well as shortcomings in the consistent collection, measurement, reporting and analysis of data have been cited as important underlying factors contributing to racism.

Canadian Heritage, along with Statistics Canada, Public Safety and Justice, are working together to better use data to understand and combat systemic racism.

What are the outcomes?

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

We will help increase equity of access and participation among racialized communities, religious minorities and Indigenous Peoples to employment, justice and social participation.

And by increasing public awareness of the barriers and challenges they face, we will remove, from their shoulders, the tiring burden of always having to prove that racism exists.

What are the next steps?

Our work is by no means finished.

Although we are moving in the right direction, there is a lot more work to do and we are committed to doing the work as allies and partners with the communities.

Fighting racism and discrimination is essential to making our country a better, safer place for everyone – no matter their race, religion, gender expression or sexual orientation.

Madam Chair, Honourable Senators, I want to thank you for inviting me to contribute to this crucial conversation.

That’s a conversation that all Canadians must keep having until, hopefully, we arrive at a day when it is no longer needed.

Thank you for your attention.

I’ll be pleased to answer your questions.

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