Every time the idea of consultations on racism in Canada surfaces, it generates confusion and conflict in the minds of those who are convinced that all is well in this country and that minority groups especially visible minorities: ‘doth protest too much.’
The same is true not only here in Quebec but across Canada. That, in the face of overwhelming evidence of communities and individuals still hobbled by their systemic exclusion from the opportunities of society.
And that’s why it has become long overdue that governments at all levels stand up to the naysayers who will never accept that in so many areas of life there are two classes of citizens, not because Canada and Canadians are fundamentally racist, but because of historical injustices that need the heavy hands of government to make right.
But getting it done is not without resistance from certain forces in society.
Over the past couple weeks the call has been made in Montreal for Valerie Plante’s municipal government to launch an official look into the systemic racism that has been keeping visible minorities out of the municipal civil service.
Initiated by CRARR and former municipal candidate, Balarama Holness, is in search of 15,000 signatures of Montrealers on a petition to force the government to hold public hearings into systemic discrimination.
At the provincial level, last September, the government buckled to pressure from hard-core nationalists and quickly scrapped its planned consultation exercise on systemic racism in Quebec.
The initiative that was supposed to have been coordinated by the Quebec Human Rights Commission was quickly shut down after an
outcry by a number of voices at the political level and in the media saw it as passing judgment on their society.
Instead, the government is opting for a new course in dealing with the multitude of evidence that shows the marginalization of minorities, particularly visible minorities, in areas such as access to health-care, employment, housing, education and other prejudices and forms of discrimination.
After cancelling the consultation, the responsibility of answering to those concerns was heaped on minister of Immigration and diversity David Heurtel who put forward something labeled: “the commission on valuing diversity and fighting against discrimination.”
Where it’s going to lead and what it will bring forth can be anyone’s guess.
In the meantime, at the federal level, Heritage Minister Melanie Joly is putting the final touches on the process to engage in consultations on systemic racism across Canada.
Her ministry will be overseeing the initiative.
When it was announced in March, she was quoted as saying her government wants to “find real solutions to real problems,” particularly on fundamental rights, access to justice and jobs.
The federal initiative comes out of set of recommendations handed down by committee from the Heritage department calling on the Trudeau government to create Canada’s Action Plan Against Racism as a way to ensure that the government would be mindful of the impact of all policies on visible minorities as it is to existing gender-based issues. “Systemic racism occurs when government actions fail to address the needs of certain racialized groups within the population, resulting in unfair, discriminatory practices and outcomes.”
But as in Quebec, many conservative voices are demanding that it does not hold Canada up to too much scrutiny.
A tweet from Conservative MP Maxime Bernier, states: “More Liberal identity politics to divide us into tribes, buy votes and justify big gov programs. Get ready to hear self-appointed reps of intersectionally oppressed victims tell you every day how systematically racist and intolerant Canadians are.”
In his March 20 column in the Globe and Mail, John Ibbittson cautioned that: “A committee crisscrossing the country in search of intolerance is bound to find it, and to publicize that finding. This is of a piece with this government’s fondness for making people feel bad about themselves.”
And he advised that the whole antiracism thing should be kept on the down low.
It’s obvious that not everyone will be comfortable as jurisdictions across the country are called to look inwards as a way of bringing in large groups of Canadians that have been kept on the outside.
Never mind what they say, it’s a good and honorable move for Montreal, Quebec and Canada.