Liberal election promise to strengthen anti-racism strategy, double funding still unmet

Given only six months into the mandate and the ongoing focus on COVID-19, somewhat unfair to criticize the government at this stage.

And as noted in the related post (Heather Scoffield: Justin Trudeau says he wants to tackle racism. Ahmed Hussen has a plan), the effectiveness of some of these and previous initiatives is yet to be demonstrated:

As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau calls for action against anti-Black racism in Canada following new mass protests over police violence, a promise by his party to double funding and strengthen Ottawa’s national anti-racism strategy remains unmet.

The $45-million strategy, unveiled a year ago and called “Building a Foundation for Change,” provides a framework for a government-wide approach toward tackling racism in the public service and in federal policies and pratices, establishing a $4.6-million anti-racism secretariat in October to oversee such efforts.

The three-year strategy also includes $6.2 million to improve race-based data collection, $3.3 million for public education, as well as $30 million for two programs providing grassroots organizations funding for community-based projects and events.

In the 2019 election, the Liberal Party promised to “strengthen” and double funding for the strategy. While the COVID-19 pandemic has derailed many promises from the election, the party proposed $341 million in new spending over four years to support diversity, anti-racism and multiculturalism initiatives, including $50 million for the current fiscal year.

Brittany Andrew-Amofah, senior policy and research analyst at the Broadbent Institute, said now is a good time to meet its commitment. She said the Trudeau government has yet to offer new action on addressing racism since the election.

“We haven’t seen any legislation or actual policy commitments that they can point to,” she said. “I think the main thing is moving some words to action.”

In recent days, as anti-racism demonstrations have taken place in American and Canadian cities in response to the police killing of George Floyd, a Black Minneapolis man, Trudeau and other federal Liberals have cited the anti-racism strategy as one of the measures his government has taken to address systemic racism in the country.

Andrew-Amofah said while the strategy provides a necessary framework to inform federal decision-making and help to improve policy outcomes for racialized Canadians, at the very least, legislation is still needed to establish permanent guidelines and funding.

She added that any anti-racism strategy should also endorse a shift in policing and justice and consider a directorate that deals specifically with anti-Black racism. Currently, there is no federal anti-Black racism strategy.

“We need to understand that racism does disproportionately impact Black and Indigenous peoples more than it does other races,” she said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Diversity, Inclusion and Youth Minister Bardish Chagger did not say whether the Liberal government would soon move on its election promise to improve funding for the anti-racism strategy.

“What’s been made clear over the past few weeks is that there is much more work to be done to combat racism,” said director of communications Danielle Keenan. “Our government remains committed to doing that work.”

Keenan added that “while COVID-19 has resulted in a change of programming for many organizations, we remain available to support however we can.”

Recent departmental figures suggest community program funds at Canadian Heritage are well tapped into, with spending nearing or exceeding annual authorities provided. The strategy includes two program funds, the Anti-Racism Action Program and the Community Support, Multiculturalism, and Anti-Racism Initiatives Program. The latter program includes a stream offering funds for projects to support Black youth.

While federal dollars support the work of many grassroots organizations, Andrew-Amofah said more transparency is needed in order to determine whether program funds is truly meeting the government’s priorities in combating racism.

She said program funding should also not divert attention away from whether broader federal policies are actually improving the livelihoods of Black Canadians and eliminating injustices they face. That includes examining poverty, food insecurity, housing and precarious employment.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has called on Trudeau to introduce legislation to end racial profiling at the RCMP, CSIS and Canada Border Services Agency and move to end over-incarceration of Black and Indigenous people in federal prisons.

Singh also said Ottawa can do more to improve access to affordable housing and education for Black and Indigenous people in Canada.

“Those are just some of the things that the government can do immediately that would go beyond the pretty words of a prime minister that says he cares,” he said in a news conference Wednesday,

While Trudeau has spoken about the need for all Canadians, including himself, to acknowledge and combat anti-Black racism in Canada, his government has yet to signal whether it will introduce new policies to support such an effort.

Andrew-Amofah added that since many issues such as housing, education and labour fall largely to the provinces, Ottawa should also consider adding conditions on federal transfers that can compel greater anti-racism action from premiers.

In the election, the Liberals also promised to slap significant fines on social media companies that are too slow to remove hateful content, as well as to increase funding for “community-led initiatives to promote inclusion and combat racism.”

Source: Liberal election promise to strengthen anti-racism strategy, double funding still unmet

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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