NDP leader Jagmeet Singh said the federal government must start gathering race-based data to make policy changes that will begin to change what the United Nations calls “deplorable” treatment of Canadian Africans.
Protests against police assassination of George Floyd in the US spilled into Canada last weekend and Toronto was arrested by the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who fell from a Toronto apartment on the 24th floor while police were at home. His death is being investigated by provincial police monitors.
On Monday, Canadian political leaders tried to overcome the increasing anger. Singh proposed decisive steps to tackle anti-black racism in Canada, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised his government would do more but not spell out specific steps or timelines for action. Conservative leader Andrew Scheer did not propose a new policy but said all levels of government “a lot needs to be done.”
In contrast to protests south of the border, violence at the Canadian demonstration was limited to Montreal, where 11 people were arrested after dozens of businesses were damaged at the end of a formal march, which occurred without incident.
Trudeau promised to “continue to take meaningful action to combat racism and discrimination in all forms.” But progress in Canada is too slow, according to a 2017 UN Human Rights Council report on anti-black racism.
In Canada, the report found a disproportionately high unemployment rate for African Canadians, leading to more precarious and underpaid work, and worse health outcomes, where people in the black community tended to access services health care and more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions. In Nova Scotia, socio-economic conditions were found to be “pathetic” and there was no change in educational inequality, 30 years after integrated schooling.
While federal leaders acknowledge that there is still racism and systemic discrimination in Canada, Quebec Prime Minister François Legault has denied that it stems from structural problems.
“All humans are the same, all the same, regardless of their skin color,” said Mr. Relief. The UN report found that African Canadians in Montreal had the highest poverty rate among the city’s minorities.
The UN report recommends compulsory national policies regarding the collection of data disaggregated by race, color, ethnic background, national origin and other identities “to determine whether and where racial differences exist for Canadian Africans so as to overcome them.”
That hasn’t happened yet and without it Canada loses important information that countries like the United States are available, said Arjumand Siddiqi, Chair of Canadian Research in population health equity. For example, Canada has no information on how employment statistics are broken down along racial lines, so it is difficult to know whether some groups are excluded from financial aid packages that have been launched by Liberals after the economic closure triggered by COVID -19.
While race-based data are collected in the census every five years, there is no routine data collection, and on top of that, the data collected is not available, Prof. Siddiqi, who is also a professor at the School of Public Health at Dalla Lana University in Toronto.
The difference between data available in the US and Canada is “day and night,” he said. Without that data, evidence-based policy changes are hindered and it is more difficult to hold governments accountable.
The failure to collect valuable data comes even when the impact of having information is clear, said Mr Singh, noting that changes to police carding were only made when the figures stated that the practice disproportionately targeted blacks and indigenous people.
He said data collection would help spur systemic changes in the police force, justice system and injustice in health care, education, housing and employment, which “perpetuate undervaluing black lives, the lives of people who are ratialized.”
Liberals fund a new Center for Gender, Diversity and Statistics Inclusion in Statistics Canada in 2018. A spokeswoman for the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Navdeep Bains did not explain why a separate center was created rather than integrating it with all work carried out by federal agencies.
Evidence from other countries and a small amount of information in Canada shows that poorer people and people of color are more affected by the new corona virus. But the Prime Minister acknowledged that gathering information broadly in Canada is an arduous struggle, given that the government currently does not even have age data for “the majority” of people diagnosed with COVID-19.
Mr Singh also said he supported the use of body cameras for police officers to ensure accountability and said police needed more training on how to jack up incidents.
The UN report released a long list of recommendations to the federal government, which included apologizing for the history of Canadian slavery and other historical injustices, as well as considering paying reparations. The federal government did not say Monday whether to accept one of the recommendations.
With a report from The Canadian Press
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