Build back better to counter inequality amplified by COVID-19

April 16, 2021 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Human Rights Commission

Upon the tabling of Build back better: The Canadian Human Rights Commission’s 2020 Annual Report to Parliament, Chief Commissioner Marie-Claude Landry issues the following statement:

Over the course of 2020, the global pandemic changed almost every aspect of life in Canada. It has separated us from family, friends and colleagues. But it has also united us in a common challenge and singular focus. 

COVID-19 has, above all, exposed the serious gaps in our social fabric and amplified the inequality experienced by millions of people in Canada. The pandemic is far more than a health crisis and an economic crisis – it is a human rights crisis. 

Indeed, it has expanded the circle of vulnerability, amplifying long-standing issues of hate, intolerance and xenophobia and exacerbating pre-existing economic and social inequalities. Many women, children, people with disabilities, older people, Indigenous people, Black people, people of colour, single parents, members of the LGBTQ2I community, and people in our correctional institutions are being put at an even greater disadvantage.

The disturbing video of the killing of George Floyd in the United States sparked outrage and protest around the world. This collective cry of “enough is enough” prompted a renewed conversation on anti-Black racism and the need to confront and dismantle the structural racism that is deeply rooted within our society.

Denying the existence of systemic racism in Canada stands in the way of our ability to fundamentally address it. Racism continues to deny Indigenous people, Black people and people of colour a life free from discrimination. Governments, Canadians, and every organization must acknowledge the existence of systemic racism and discrimination and actively work to dismantle it. This includes the Commission.

In recent years, the Commission has been looking at how racism can manifest itself within our own organization and how it influences our daily work and the services we provide to Canadians. We are deeply committed to listening, learning and taking meaningful action. To support this, we have developed an Anti-Racism Action Plan. This Plan will be regularly updated and guide all aspects of the Commission’s on-going anti-racism work.

Bringing about meaningful change of any kind must involve and include the voices, perspectives and lived experience of everyone — whether making an organization more diverse and inclusive, or building back from a national crisis.

As we look to recover from this pandemic, we must aspire to build back better — to make a new and better normal. A Canada where every voice is heard and where everyone is included.

We can improve accessibility for all. 

We can eliminate the gender pay gap.

We can dismantle systemic racism in our laws, policies, practices and our institutions. We can challenge white privilege, and confront unchecked racial biases that continue to exist in Canada.

We can address housing need, homelessness, and the social challenges that have only deepened in the face of the pandemic.

Now more than ever, human rights matter. We must not tolerate aggression or acts of racism and violence aimed at someone because of the colour of their skin or where they are from. And words matter. We must stem the flood of hatred and intolerance that has found its way online and into our social discourse.

This pandemic has revealed Canada to be a resilient nation and one of great resolve. We owe it to everybody to ensure that we can all participate fully and feel welcome, valued and safe.

Because a Canada that includes everyone is a better Canada for everyone. In other words, when everyone can participate, everyone benefits.
My Canada includes everyone. Does yours? I’m confident that it does. And I know that we can improve and build back even better. That we can make a more equal Canada, where nobody is left behind. A Canada that supports all of us for who we are, where we’re from, what we believe and who we love.

Let’s all do our part.

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Read the full report here: Build back better: Canadian Human Rights Commission’s 2020 Annual Report to Parliament 


Quick Facts

  • In 2020, more than 49,000 people contacted the Canadian Human Rights Commission to complain. This is the most on record.
  • In 2020, the Commission accepted 1,030 discrimination complaints for further examination.
    • 54% of the accepted complaints cited the ground of disability
    • 29% of the accepted complaints cited the ground race.
    • 29% of complaints accepted were related to mental health.
    • 47% of complaints accepted were about intersectional discrimination, which means they cited more than one ground of discrimination.
  • In 2020, the Commission referred 151 discrimination cases to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal for adjudication.
  • Over the past five years, 30% of total the discrimination complaints coming to the Commission are about race or religion.
  • Over the past five years, the Commission has seen a 53% increase in complaints based on race or religion.

Associated Links

Build back better: Canadian Human Rights Commission’s 2020 Annual Report to Parliament 

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