Anti-Black racism in Canada: time to face the truth

June 02, 2020 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Human Rights Commission

In light of the anti-racism protests taking place this week across the U.S., Canada and the world, Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission releases the following statement:

It is time for all Canadians to acknowledge that anti-Black racism is pervasive in Canada. In fact, the belief that there is little to no racism in Canada is in itself a barrier to addressing it.

As millions of people around the world unite to speak out against the killing of George Floyd, many are grappling with grief, anger and anxiety. The Commission extends its deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Mr. Floyd, and to his entire community. We are immeasurably saddened that all those who endure the effects of anti-Black racism may be newly traumatized by this most recent senseless tragedy.

Anti-Black racism is not confined to the U.S. Many people of African descent in Canada feel threatened or unsafe every day because of the colour of their skin — some fear the police officers charged with protecting them.

We must question why Black people in Canada are more likely to be racially profiled whether by police when walking down the street, or store employees when shopping, or when being served in a restaurant. We must question why they are more likely to be the targets of hate speech and hate crimes, and are overrepresented in our criminal justice system.

The roots of anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination in Canada run deep. They are historically embedded in our society, in our culture, in our laws and in our attitudes. They are built into our institutions and perpetuate the social and economic disparities that exist in everything from education, to healthcare, to housing and employment.

Now is the time for all Canadians, but especially non-racialized Canadians, to listen, learn and reflect on how white privilege and systemic racism contribute to injustice and inequality in this country. We need to look inwards and challenge our biases, fears, assumptions and privilege. We need to have difficult and uncomfortable conversations. We must recognize and respect the leadership of voices from the Black community, and learn from lived experiences of anti-Black racism.

Racist comments and racist acts, no matter how subtle, must no longer be ignored or tolerated in Canada. Even the most subtle forms of racism contribute to the conditions that permit overt racism and violence to occur. When we are complacent, we are complicit. When we are silent, we are complicit.

It is not enough to say that we embrace diversity and human rights as the foundation of our democracy. Racism violates human rights. Whether conscious or unconscious, subtle or overt, it diminishes human dignity and it erodes democracy.

It is time for change. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr: “there comes a time when silence is betrayal.” That time is now.

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