What if we treated Confederate symbols the way we treated the defeated Nazis?

Good contrast that points out the thoughtlessness of defending Confederate symbols and statues:

Earlier this month, amid America’s confrontation with its racist legacy – which has seen monuments to Jefferson Davis toppled, the Mississippi state flag lowered, Gone With the Wind pulled from HBO’s streaming service, and music groups such as Lady Antebellum and the Dixie Chicks rebranding in an effort to distance themselves from memory of the Confederacy – I came across a tweet that put these headline-grabbing goings-on, and the backlash to them, in perspective: “Trying to imagine a version of WW2 where the Nazis just get pushed into Bavaria and surrender, but keep the swastika on the state flag, slap it on their cars and say stuff like ‘The Third Reich is my heritage.’”

The tweet, by the popular history YouTuber Three Arrows, was tagged with “lol” – as if to drive home just how absurd it would be to see the grandkids of former Nazis puttering around Munich in VWs adorned with swastika bumper stickers, like something out of a pulpy alt-history novel. It’s an idea so sinister as to seem cartoonish, and laughable. But something similar goes on in America all of the time.

In Germany, you won’t hear debates about Nazi statues. As the moral philosopher Susan Neiman, author of Learning from the Germans: Race and the Memory of Evil, notes, there’s a good reason for that: there aren’t any Nazi statues. The program of denazification began almost immediately after the second world war, established as one of “Four Ds” (along with demilitarization, decentralization and democratization) outlined in the Potsdam agreement of 1945. An Allied order in 1946 declared illegal “any monument, memorial, poster, statue, edifice, street or highway name marker, emblem, tablet, or insignia which tends to preserve and keep alive the German military tradition, to revive militarism or to commemorate the Nazi Party”.

Belgian King Conveys ‘Deepest Regrets’ For Brutal Colonial Past In Congo

Long overdue:

The policies of Belgian King Leopold II left millions of people dead more than a century ago in the region that is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Now, in a first for the Belgian monarchy, King Philippe has expressed his “deepest regrets” for a colonization campaign that remains notorious for its brutality.

“Our history is made of common achievements but also of painful episodes,” Philippe wrote in a letter to Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi that was published Tuesday in Belgian media. The note commemorated the 60th anniversary of the Central African state gaining its independence from Belgium.

Philippe acknowledged “acts of violence and cruelty” under the colonial administration spearheaded by his ancestor.

The decades straddling the turn of the 20th century saw vast swaths of the region’s population die of disease, famine or violence under Leopold’s rule. He plundered rubber, ivory and other raw materials.

In Philippe’s letter, which did not explicitly name Leopold, he wrote that the regime’s violent practices sowed “suffering and humiliation” among the people of Congo.

“I would like to express my deepest regrets for those wounds of the past,” the king added, “the pain of which is today revived by the discrimination that is still all too present in our societies. I will continue to fight all forms of racism.”

Tshisekedi did not offer an immediate public response to the letter on what has been a relatively subdued holiday for the country as it battles the coronavirus.

The country’s colonial past has been thrust into headlines in recent weeks with protests seething worldwide over racial injustice.

Catalyzed by a string of police killings of Black people in the U.S., protests have erupted beyond American borders as well. Across the Atlantic — in the U.K. and Belgium, in particular — statues with racist, colonial legacies have been vandalized and have seen widespread calls for removal.

And statues of King Leopold II have attracted particular vitriol.

The long-reigning monarch claimed the region as his own private property, calling it — unironically — the Congo Free State. Shortly before his death, he was forced to cede the territory to the Belgian state, which maintained formal ownership of the colony until 1960.

Leopold, his successors and the Belgian government drew riches from a system that featured the widespread abduction, mutilation and forced labor of natives.

Several statues of Leopold across Belgium have been the targets of arson and dashes of paint recently, and at least one has been removed by authorities. A petition demanding that Brussels, the Belgian capital, remove all of its Leopold statues has also garnered tens of thousands of signatures.

Meanwhile, a commission approved earlier this month in the Belgian parliament has pledged to investigate and more broadly acknowledge the country’s colonial past. It’s an effort that Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès heralded in a speech Tuesday marking Congo’s independence day.

“The point is not to rewrite history, but to better understand it,” she said in Ixelles, where she dedicated a commemorative plaque for the Belgian city’s Congolese residents. “After all, we cannot start a new chapter without knowing all the previous ones. This is necessary to build the future.”

Source: Belgian King Conveys ‘Deepest Regrets’ For Brutal Colonial Past In Congo

@Shree Paradkar Dear brown people: I’m about to wash some dirty linen in public. Consider this an overdue act of tough love

A good reminder that racism occurs among visible minorities too:

A South Asian man wrote me an email recently about my columns on the Peel District School Board. “I have not seen you focus as much on the South Asian students in that board as you have been on the Black students,” he wrote. He grew up in Peel, where he said South Asians faced “bigotry at the hands of white teachers and students and hostility at the hands of Black students.”

Most of the South Asian students he grew up with worked hard, persevered and are very successful, despite their working-class roots, he wrote.

“However, as was the case when we were growing up, the Black community and students are basically monopolizing the public’s and school board’s attention and resources.” He dived into predictable comments about Black family structures being to blame, “though external obstacles no doubt continue to exist as they do for all minority communities.”

The letter, sent in late April, expressed commonly held views among South Asians: the myth of the “model minority” — or the false perception of universal success among brown people; an ahistorical view of anti-Black racism; and racist ideas about Black “family structures.”

And we’re surprised Black people don’t trust us?

Dear brown people: a warning. I’m about to wash some dirty linen in public. Consider this an overdue act of tough love.

Two years ago when I called out various forms of discrimination within South Asian communities in a keynote for the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians (CASSA), I was a minority voice within a minority; while many in the audience were supportive, we all knew there simply wasn’t a widespread movement to hold the anti-Blackness within to account.

That is changing.

In the wake of Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin’s callous disregard for George Floyd’s life and several botched — racist — police interventions against Black and Indigenous people in Canada, the reckoning of anti-Blackness steeped in the very pores of our existence has become urgent.

In recent days, Hasan Minhaj called out fellow brown people in a 12-minute special on his Netflix show “Patriot Act.” CASSA hosted a series of panels on anti-hate conversations including one on racism within racialized communities. (Full disclosure: I was on that panel.) The U.K.’s Burnt Roti magazine hosted a discussion named Dismantling Anti-Blackness in South Asian communities.

On June 19, three education experts — York University assistant professor Vidya Shah, former Toronto school board education superintendent Jeewan Chanicka and Herveen Singh, an assistant professor at Dubai’s Zayed University — spoke in a brutally frank session titled “Brown Complicity in White Supremacy.”

While anti-Blackness is also rampant among Hispanics, East Asians, Middle Eastern people and any people who are neither white nor Black, “brown” here refers to people of South Asian ancestry and their diasporic communities.

In the artificial racial hierarchy created by Europeans who placed themselves at the top and enslaved Africans at the bottom, brown folks reside in the uneasy middle.

“We shift towards Blackness when it’s cool, when it demonstrates some sort of street cred or street smarts and then we shift right back to whiteness when we need to maintain access or mobility within the system,” Shah told the panel. “We’re chameleons.”

At least a couple of factors make us ripe for this role in the grey zone. One, as architects/participants of a caste system that in practice transcends religion, we inherently understand hierarchies. Two, our own vitriolic colourism — further cemented by waves of colonization — means we’d rather kiss the ring of whiteness than be associated with Blackness.

This has turned us into white supremacists in brown skin, useful tools in the project of whiteness. Our presence enables white people to look like multicultural progressives — some of us are the checkbox diversity hires that help them avoid addressing anti-Blackness. Our success is then used to absolve whiteness: look, Black people are told, if these people can succeed, why can’t you?

In constantly aspiring to whiteness we make ourselves more palatable to a system that does not wish to dismantle the status quo, Singh told the panel. This makes us easier to hire and be promoted through the ranks than a Black person. “In this way we become honorary whites, meaning that we are accepted in white spaces by white people upon the condition that we continue to be passive, compliant and constantly striving for whiteness.”

That compliance requires us to not talk too loudly, especially on matters of racial equity.

Brown people, we love to pat ourselves on the back for our “success” — look at our high household incomes, look at our high-achieving kids, look how far we’ve come and how quickly. So hardworking.

But we forget to see whose activism even made it possible for us to arrive here. Whom we’re stampeding on in our rush for success. Whose activism has the effect of making us appear compliant — and therefore palatable. And whose scholarship, despite it all, saves us.

“I want brown folks to remember we’re not just ascending on the backs of Black people, we have our feet on their necks as well,” Chanicka told the panel.

The fight for civil rights opened up North America to non-white immigrants in the 1960s. But immigrants were required to be highly educated people and in perfect health. These requirements a) filtered out those marginalized in their home countries and b) set those early migrants up for success even if they faced racism in the job market upon entry.

Some were able to fall back on their education and prior experience to became entrepreneurs while others sacrificed professional fulfilment for their children’s prospects. Fit in, they told their kids. Behave, study, fit in. Why would we not? Disrupt and we could end up at the bottom of the heap.

This, however, is a deal with the devil. Many of us gave up language, cultural practices, even names — anglicizing them or reducing them to monosyllabic ones.

“In this process of emptying ourselves of our core brown assets we’re filled with tremendous anxiety and insecurity,” said Singh. “And it is due to this insecurity that we lack the integrity to dismantle anti-Blackness within ourselves.”

However, no matter how much we strive for whiteness, we never can be white. It doesn’t matter how we sound, how we dress, how light-skinned we think we are, how much class privilege we enjoy to buffer racism, how many personal relationships we have that transcend race. Collectively, we are marked The Other.

When we’re rushing up the ladder we may not care that we’re crushing Black fingers on every rung. It’s when we or our children invariably hit glass ceilings — because racism against brown people is very real — that we begin to search for answers.

The shallowest of those questions is, “Why is everything just about anti-Black racism? What about us?” Chanicka calls this a way to silence the conversation. “It keeps dividing us as opposed to the understanding that racism is built on anti-Blackness. You cannot solve racism without addressing anti-Blackness.”

An awakening of our critical consciousness comes from the deep well of Black knowledge and activism — there is no equivalent South Asian activism to turn to here although there is growing Dalit (formerly called “untouchables”) scholarship; Anti-Black racism has centuries of intergenerational roots in Canada, running parallel and at times intersecting with anti-Indigeneity.

There is yet another steep cost for brown folks in the white man’s game. When we look down upon dark skin, view it as inferior, we implicitly accept our inferiority to whiteness. That’s the most cruel cut we could inflict on ourselves.

It makes anti-Blackness among brown folks the ultimate act of self-hate, one that all the Fair & Lovely cream in the world cannot erase.

Police Researcher: Officers Have Similar Biases Regardless Of Race

Interesting study. But watching the visible minority officers doing nothing during the Floyd killing …:

One common recommendation for reducing police brutality against people of color is to have police departments mirror a given area’s racial makeup.

President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing recommended that law enforcement “reflect the demographics of the community”; the Justice Department and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said diversity on police forces can help build trust with communities.

Rashawn Ray, a fellow at the Brookings Institution and a sociology professor at the University of Maryland, studies race and policing. He says that diversity helps but that “officers, regardless of their race or gender, have similar implicit biases, particularly about Black people.” Ray says it’s not enough to have Black cops in a Black neighborhood if they don’t know the area.

Ray and his University of Maryland colleagues have amassed policing data through tests and interviews with hundreds of officers. He talked with Morning Edition‘s Noel King about this research. Here are excerpts of that interview:

What kind of biases do police officers — implicit, explicit — say that they have?

The first big thing is that when officers take the implicit association test, they exhibit bias against Black people. They are more likely to make an association between Black people with weapons than they are with white people with weapons. We also know that officers speak less respectfully to Black people during traffic stops as well as during other sorts of settings. And they are particularly less likely to respect Black women in these encounters, even if they’re more likely to slightly use more force on Black men relative to other people.

I was talking to a former police officer whose job is now to recruit more Black and brown police officers into [the Minneapolis] force. It sounds like what you’re saying is if she is recruiting Black and brown officers from Phoenix or from Houston and bringing them over to Minneapolis, that is not likely to solve the problem.

That’s exactly right. So the optics look good, but we can’t make the assumption that simply because a person is Black that they’re going to know about the neighborhood. Part of the fundamental problem when it comes to policing that I’ve noticed is that when police officers interact with a white person, there is a pause, a slight pause, a slight benefit of the doubt. The reason why that exists is because subconsciously, implicitly, when they interact with that person, they see their neighbor, a parent at their kids’ school, and when they interact with a Black person, they are less likely to have what we call in sociology those “social scripts” that allow them to view people in those multitude of ways.

And if we’re going to change this, one big recommendation I have: Police officers need housing assistance that mandates that they live in the metropolitan area where they are policing. Because community policing isn’t about getting out, playing basketball with a kid in uniform. Community policing oftentimes is what you do when you’re not on duty. The way that you’re investing in a neighborhood.

Source: Police Researcher: Officers Have Similar Biases Regardless Of Race

Anti-Chinese racism is Canada’s ‘shadow pandemic,’ say researchers

Disturbing that so many appear not to be able to distinguish between the Chinese regime, with all its abuses, and Chinese Canadians:

Many Chinese Canadians fear that Asian children will be bullied when they return to school due to racial tension arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

A survey of more than 500 Canadians of Chinese ethnicity by the Angus Reid Institute and the University of Alberta has found that anti-Chinese racism is rife in our society, what the researchers call a “shadow pandemic.”

That parents are afraid to send their children to school is “heartbreaking,” said ARI executive director Shachi Kurl. “Racism is the secondary virus that has had an outbreak since the pandemic was declared.

“We have this notion of Canada as an endlessly accepting, embracing country because we are multicultural,” she said. “It’s not the case and it’s never been the case.”

“The data show that these micro-aggressions are frequent and plentiful,” said Kurl. “People say they are being treated as though they are somehow carriers of COVID-19.”

More than 60 per cent of those surveyed said they have adjusted their daily routines because of the threat of racial backlash and about half fear that Asian children will be bullied if they return to school.

Vancouver-born Gloria Leung says her daughter of mixed race has been jeered by other children for her Chinese ancestry just steps from their home.

“We have informed our daughter’s teacher without naming any names and her teacher has shared that information with school staff so they can increase awareness of racism and bullying,” she said.

Her daughter’s harassers are from just two families in an otherwise diverse and welcoming neighbourhood, but the seven-year-old has felt anxious and stressed since the incident.
“We understand that everyone is struggling and hurting in this pandemic,” Leung said. “Our hope in sharing these lived and uncomfortable experiences is not to shame people, but to provide insight into systemic racism and shed light on how we can learn from these experiences.”

The survey also found that just 13 per cent of respondents feel that people in Canada view them as fully Canadian “all the time.”

“There’s a notion that because our schools are diverse and our workplaces are diverse that racism isn’t a thing anymore,” said Kurl. “It’s one thing to hear about this anecdotally, but it’s important to ask these questions to see just how widespread this is.”

About 30 per cent of the respondents say they have been exposed to anti-Chinese sentiment in the news, on social media or through graffiti.“Just this weekend (U.S. President Donald) Trump used a pejorative term for the virus, calling it the ‘kung flu,” noted Tung Chan, a former Vancouver city councillor and former chair of the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.

“The parents learn from the media, the children learn from the parents and you have this fear that extends into schools,” he said.

Chan was particularly discouraged to learn that 60 per cent of people surveyed changed their daily routine to avoid negative interactions and “unpleasant encounters.”

“I have always chosen my words carefully when talking about racism, because I don’t want to make people feel insecure,” said Chan. “But looking at these numbers I think that I was too mild in my remarks. This is far worse than I thought in terms of people fearing for their personal safety.”While it is important to hold the government of China to account for its belligerence and human rights abuses, news media need to distinguish between the actions of the People’s Republic of China, the Communist party of China, and the Chinese people.

“The term Chinese is too all-encompassing and it reflects the actions of the Chinese government back on the people in our community,” said Chan.

“I am proud of my Chinese heritage and I won’t walk away from that, but if you ask me who I am I always say I am Canadian,” he said.

The survey was conducted online between June 15 and 18 among a randomized representative sample of 516 adults who identify as ethnically Chinese. The margin of error is +/- 4.3 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Source: Anti-Chinese racism is Canada’s ‘shadow pandemic,’ say researchers

Black MPs, senators call for immediate justice reforms to address systemic racism

Of note:

Black parliamentarians issued a call to all levels of government on Tuesday to urgently confront the consequences of systemic racism and improve the lives of Black Canadians.

A group of eight Black MPs and senators released more than 40 recommendations, including the collection of race-based data and the elimination of some mandatory minimum sentences, a reform that has been long-promised by the Liberal government.

Their letter is supported by 27 ministers of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s 36-member cabinet, including Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Justice Minister David Lametti. Dozens of other parliamentarians, who are not members of the caucus, also signed it.

The calls for reform also include the need to cut barriers to economic advancement of Black Canadians, including ensuring Black-led businesses have equitable access to federal procurement contracts, along with new measures directed at Black-owned businesses disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

In a statement Tuesday, the parliamentary Black caucus said brutal acts of racism that have propelled the issue into the spotlight represent “only a very thin slice of the racism that Black Canadians experience in their daily lives.”

“We urge all governments to act immediately,” they said. “This is not a time for further discussion.”

Liberal MP Greg Fergus, the chair of the parliamentary Black caucus, said in an interview on Tuesday that racism is not just an issue of inconvenience.

“We need to stop this cold,” he said. “It kills. Enough is enough.”

In addition to Mr. Fergus, the caucus includes Families Minister Ahmed Hussen, MPs Emmanuel Dubourg, Hedy Fry, Matthew Green, and senators Wanda Thomas Bernard, Marie-Françoise Mégie and Rosemary Moodie.

The goal of the recommendations is to push the country from a debate about whether there is systemic racism to a discussion about how to end it, according to Dr. Bernard, who is also a professor emeritus at Dalhousie University.

She said she hopes to see an initial response to the recommendations within a few weeks, but acknowledged that implementing some of the changes will take years.

The caucus’s statement pays particular attention to the justice and public safety systems where it says “the hard edge of systemic discrimination is perhaps felt most acutely.”

In addition to the reform of mandatory minimum sentences, the group calls on governments to review restrictions on conditional sentencing, establish community justice centres across the country and invest in restorative-justice programs.

In 2015, Mr. Trudeau promised to review sentencing laws and his government promised the following year to cut the widespread use of mandatory minimum sentences by giving judges back their discretion over punishment. However, those reforms never came and Mr. Trudeau’s 2019 mandate letter for Mr. Lametti did not mention the issue.

In the interim, courts have struck down some mandatory minimums, deeming them to be “cruel and unusual punishment,” resulting in a patchwork of penalties across the country.

The Prime Minister on Tuesday acknowledged the list of recommendations, but would not commit to the justice reforms.

“We are going to continue to look at that and other measures that we can move forward to make sure that our justice system does not continue to be unfair towards racialized Canadians and Indigenous Canadians,” he said.

On the economic reforms, he said the government will be “moving forward on a number of those recommendations.”

Jody Wilson-Raybould, a former Liberal justice minister turned independent MP, asked Mr. Lametti at a parliamentary committee on Monday if his government will “finally commit to the necessary work originally promised in 2015 and repeal, in the justice system, the vast majority of mandatory minimum penalties.”

Mr. Lametti replied, conceding that racial minorities have too often experienced prejudice and systemic discrimination in the justice system and that this needs to change.

Correctional Investigator Ivan Zinger said Tuesday that systemic racism plays out in the federal correction system in the overrepresentation of Black Canadians and Indigenous Peoples.

While the overall inmate population decreased by approximately 3 per cent between March, 2011, and March, 2020, Dr. Zinger’s office said that the Black inmate population increased by 4.5 per cent, bringing it to 9.6 per cent of the total inmate population.

In January, his office also issued a pointed report, which said that Indigenous offenders now represent more than 30 per cent of prisoners in federal custody – a new high.

Dr. Zinger said that while federal correctional institutions do not have the luxury of choosing who is admitted to the system through the courts, they do have control over measures such as programming, rehabilitation and how offenders are released to the community.

“What we see is that where they have control, the correctional outcomes are actually poor for both Indigenous and Black offenders,” he said.

Indigenous offenders in the Prairies have a recidivism rate of 70 per cent, he added.

“That is just unacceptable,” he said. “Not enough is done to provide programming that lowers their risk of reoffending and that’s a public safety issue and this is why we’ve made so many recommendations to say you [corrections] need so better with respect to Indigenous people, as well as Black offenders.”

Source: Black MPs, senators call for immediate justice reforms to address systemic racism

Damning report points finger at Montreal city, police for failure to address systemic racism

Of note:

Montreal police operate with a culture of impunity fuelled by indifference in the city administration to complaints of racial profiling, violence and other forms of discrimination, according to a new report on systemic racism in the city.

The police force also works without data and concrete objectives for diversifying its work force, a vacuum that has made it unrepresentative of the community, much like other Montreal city departments, the report by the city’s independent public consultation office says.

Public consultations with a broad mandate to study systemic racism in the administration of the city of Montreal began two years ago. The Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM) heard from 7,000 people who recounted stories of profiling, hiring and promotion roadblocks, and both overt and subtle discrimination.

The report landed as systemic racism and police discrimination have been pushed to the top of the public agenda. A series of violent incidents involving police in the United States and Canada have triggered protests and challenged leaders to act.

Long-standing denial that systemic racism is a problem is entrenched in Montreal’s city administration while the police hierarchy flip-flops on the existence of racial profiling and other forms of discrimination, said the report. It issued 38 recommendations including better data collection, enforcement of hiring targets, improved training and more responsive oversight mechanisms for the police and the city.

“How can you effectively and efficiently fight against racism if you don’t acknowledge it exists and don’t have data on what to change?” Dominique Ollivier, head of the OCPM, said in an interview. “There is no culture of evaluation in the city. They give themselves broad goals so any little thing can be called success.”

About 35 per cent of Montrealers identify as racialized or Indigenous people. About 19 per cent of the city’s work force are from those groups, an increase from 12.3 per cent 10 years earlier. For Montreal police, the figure was 7.7 per cent in 2019. Less than 2 per cent of city’s senior managers are racialized people. “They haven’t hired a single manager in three years from visible minorities or Indigenous groups,” Ms. Ollivier said.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante responded Monday by formally acknowledging at City Hall that systemic racism exists and vowing to appoint a commissioner to fight discrimination. However she offered no new steps to increase work-force or management diversity. “The city must be an exemplary employer,” she said. “We have to hit the accelerator to meet our targets. We can and must do better.”

A spokesman for the Montreal police said Chief Sylvain Caron would not comment on the report Monday. The police force sent out a statement Monday evening acknowledging the existence of systemic racism and vowing to fight it. In July, Chief Caron is set to release a new policy on street identification checks, known in some jurisdictions as carding.

Quebec Premier François Legault announced Monday he is creating a provincial task force to draft an anti-racism action plan by Christmas. Mr. Legault does not recognize systemic racism exists in Quebec but said the task force will address racism in public security, the justice system, the workplace, education and housing.

Mr. Legault said that, in order to expedite action on a long-studied issue, the task force will consist only of cabinet ministers and government MNAs. Mr. Legault put two Black ministers in charge of the task force: Nadine Girault, a former executive in the financial industry, and Lionel Carmant, a physician.

“I am not going to spend my time trying to find a definition of systemic racism that will be acceptable to everyone,” Ms. Girault said. “To recognize the problem is part of the solution, but we must go forward and create a clear obligation for results.”

Montreal’s racism report was the product of provisions in the city’s charter that allow citizens to petition for such consultations. Balarama Holness, one of the organizers who gathered 22,000 signatures to force the study, was pleased with its concrete recommendations but split on the political reaction.

“François Legault doesn’t recognize systemic racism but seems to be taking concrete steps to do something about it. Valérie Plante recognizes systemic racism on a symbolic level and is doing nothing about it,” said Mr. Holness, who is a McGill law student and founder of Montreal in Action, a human-rights advocacy group.

Mr. Holness, like Ms. Ollivier, expressed some optimism that protest and public attention might lead to action. “Let’s hope this is a step to creating a new legacy of equality,” he said, “even if we all know equality is a pursuit, not a destination.”

Source: Damning report points finger at Montreal city, police for failure to address systemic racism

Canada has a long, documented history of racism and racial discrimination. Don’t look away

Good reminder by Mark O’Neill, president and chief executive of the Canadian Museum of History and the Canadian War Museum.

In the 1980s, as a young program officer in what was then called the Department of the Secretary of State of Canada, I worked in the race-relations unit of the department’s multiculturalism program. Several events, in particular, were formative in my understanding of the state of social cohesion and the institutional response to the diversity of Canadian society at that time. These included the fatal shootings of young Black men in Mississauga (Michael Wade Lawson, in 1988) and Montreal (Anthony Griffin, in 1987) by police officers, and the final report of the Marshall Inquiry, released in 1990, which concluded that Donald Marshall Jr., a Mi’kmaq man in Nova Scotia, had been wrongly prosecuted and convicted of murder in 1971.

A critical milestone during this period was the Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement of 1988, the first time a Canadian government had formally acknowledged and apologized for a historic injustice against a group of Canadians – in this case, the internment of Japanese Canadians during the Second World War.

Collectively, these experiences formed the beginning of what has essentially been my lifelong learning of Canada’s history of systemic and institutional racism and racial discrimination.

The entire concept of Canada as a racist society is antithetical to the mainstream notion of Canadian identity and values (as expressed, most fundamentally, in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms). In an interview with the Canadian Press, journalist and activist Desmond Cole talks about the need to overcome Canada’s self-mythology as a country that doesn’t have the same forms of racism as the United States.

Recently, and in previous decades, Canadian politicians have quipped that a point of distinction between our country and the United States is Canada’s lack of a history of slavery, which has exposed an unawareness of, or unwillingness to acknowledge, the brutality of the transatlantic slave trade that benefited pre-Confederation Canada.

The late Gord Downie was inspired to create his Secret Path multimedia project when, as an adult, he learned of Chanie Wenjack, a 12-year-old Anishinaabe boy who died of hunger and exposure in 1966 after fleeing a residential school in Ontario. Mr. Downie made it his purpose to bring the story to Canadians because, like him, there were so many people in Canada who didn’t know the dark history of the schools.

Academic and author Lubomyr Luciuk, instrumental in the long campaign for redress for Ukrainian-Canadians interned as enemy aliens during the First World War, was initially told by government officials, “That never happened.”

Canada’s racism, both past and present, is a well-documented and undeniable fact. But many Canadians, sadly, do not know their history, so it stands to reason that they don’t know the darker chapters of it. It is profoundly important that we learn our history – and be acutely aware of our individual and collective wrongs – if we are to move ahead as a society, let alone judge others.

The Canadian History Hall, unveiled at the Canadian Museum of History in 2017 and developed by content experts in collaboration with community representatives, aims to bring Canadian history to life in a comprehensive, artifact-rich visitor experience grounded in the historical record of the events and people that comprise our history. In many respects, it lays bare our history. Not surprisingly, not everyone approves.

Examples of Canada’s history of racism abound. Our first prime minister, John A. Macdonald, when presented in his complex entirety, is the architect of both Confederation and the Indian Act (the two historical realities are inextricably bound – and critical to understanding both him and our country).

McGill University, one of Canada’s most respected postsecondary institutions, has a history of anti-Semitic admissions policies that were not lifted until after the Second World War. The historically Black town of Africville, N.S., was expropriated in the 1960s; homes were torn down without warning or process, and the community was displaced. The Chinese head tax, first introduced in 1885 and increased several times thereafter, discouraged and penalized Chinese immigration to Canada. It was superseded by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923, which forbade Chinese immigration altogether.

The persistence of systemic racism and racial discrimination in Canada is a part of our contemporary history. As recently as 2017, the UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent released a report on its mission to Canada. The Working Group found that “Canada’s history of enslavement, racial segregation and marginalization of African Canadians has left a legacy of anti-Black racism and had a deleterious impact on people of African descent, which must be addressed in partnership with the affected communities. Across Canada, many people of African descent continue to live in poverty and poor health, have low educational attainment and are overrepresented at all levels of the criminal justice system.”

Both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls have painstakingly documented Canada’s long and devastating legacy of racist policies and practices against Indigenous people.

In April, an article by poet and columnist El Jones in the Halifax Examinerexplored the serious impact COVID-19 will have on Black communities, noting that “racism and structural inequality shape who is affected by this illness and its economic fallout. Systematically ignoring that reality makes Black people even more vulnerable.” The article goes on to describe the disappearance of “Blackness” from the reporting of the pandemic, despite the fact that many Black people are on the front lines and that, like the U.S., Canada is not keeping race-based data on testing or infection rates.

It has been a long time for me, personally, since the shootings of Mr. Lawson and Mr. Griffin, the Marshall Inquiry’s report and the Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement. But along the arc of the moral universe, they are recent events in Canadian history.

The Department of Justice reports that although Indigenous adults represent just 4 per cent of the adult population in Canada, they account for 26 per centof admissions to correctional services.

Political leaders at all levels have acknowledged the existence of anti-Black racism in Canada. In 2016, Abdirahman Abdi died during his arrest in Ottawa, and Dafonte Miller lost an eye after an alleged assault by an off-duty police officer in Toronto. Andrew Loku was killed by Toronto police in 2015 in what was deemed a homicide.

Canadians have much to be proud of in their quest for social justice, including the creation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; the introduction of the Employment Equity Act to guarantee every Canadian equal access to work; the Government of Canada’s apology for the Chinese head tax; and many other stories of leadership on human rights and international aid and development. In 2019, the federal government unveiled its anti-racism strategy, a key pillar of which is the establishment of an Anti-Racism Secretariat that will lead a “whole-of-government” approach in addressing racism and racial discrimination. This is a welcome approach, but there is still much work to be done.

The final panel in the Canadian History Hall at the Canadian Museum of History reminds visitors that “Canadians have inherited a contested past. Like their forebears, they face conflict, struggle and loss alongside success, accomplishment and hope. They steward an acclaimed but imperfect democracy, a beautiful but threatened environment, a revered but relative civility. Their vision and generosity, wisdom and compromise will be their own legacy – for Canada, and the world.”

Source: Canada has a long, documented history of racism and racial discrimination. Don’t look away

‘It’s a lot of lip service’: Black federal public servants hope ‘Floyd effect’ will finally drive change as anti-racism movement grips Canada

Didn’t know that the Public Service Employee Survey allowed this desegregation (not on public site so assume was special request).


Black public servants, already more likely to report being victims of racial discrimination than the rest of the federal bureaucracy, are hoping the “Floyd effect” will help drive the changes for which they’ve spent years trying to gain traction.

“In some ways, this has had a positive effect in the amount of interest that it has generated and, you know, white people being woke for a moment in time about the realities of being Black in Canada and the rest of North America,” said Richard Sharpe, founder of the Federal Black Employee Caucus (FBEC).

Mr. Sharpe and FBEC have been inundated in the last couple of weeks with calls to speak to and help departments generate ideas to address anti-Black racism in their various organizations.

The documented killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minn., by a police officer has affected white people and moved them to action to a scale Mr. Sharpe said he’s never seen in his lifetime. “We really feel a shift and we’re hoping to take advantage of that to make some progress on this work, maybe faster progress now that there’s some doors that have been opened for us,” he said.

Established in late 2017, FBEC’s primary objectives since its inception have been to get disaggregated employment equity data collected so that employees, employers, and policy-makers can all understand the landscape for Black federal bureaucrats, and to provide an element of support and unity for Black employees who are facing harassment and discrimination in the workplace.

It’s an issue Black public servants have long been raising, but now they’re starting to get some data to back it up. Last year, the annual Public Service Employee Survey for the first time allowed respondents to self-identify as a specific visible minority group, instead of all being lumped in to one category.

In a February interview with The Hill Times, Mr. Sharpe said FBEC had a role to play in making that happen. In the lead-up to the 2019 survey, the group met with 25 to 30 deputy ministers across the public service, he said, as well as the Public Service Management Advisory Committee.

Fifteen per cent of Black employees indicated they had been a victim of discrimination on the job in the past 12 months, compared to 11 per cent of non-Black visible minorities, and only eight per cent of the public service, overall.

Of those who said they had experienced discrimination, 75 per cent of Black employees said it was racial, compared to 52 per cent for non-Black visible minorities, and 26 per cent for the public service overall. A little more than half of the Black respondents who said they faced discrimination (54 per cent) said it was due to colour (30 per cent for non-Black visible minorities, 16 per cent overall). Black public servants who said they experienced discrimination were less likely than non-Black visible minorities to indicate it was discrimination based on national or ethnic origin—34 per cent of Black employees compared to 43 per cent for non-Black visible minorities.

For FBEC, the results were not surprising. Mr. Sharpe pointed to the fact that there are more than 13,000 people who Statistics Canada had said identified as Black who were working with or for the public service (including contractors). A little more than 6,200 of the 182,306 PSES respondents in 86 departments self-identified as Black in the survey, which was conducted between July 22 and Sept. 6, 2019.

Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos (Québec, Que.) said the statistics are “proof that more information is not only needed, but is useful.” Speaking to The Hill Times after addressing FBEC’s Feb. 24 annual general meeting, Mr. Duclos said it’s “good news” that employees are now able to self-identify in the survey. “We can therefore work better and more effectively to address the challenges that are revealed by the study.”

Mr. Duclos said the numbers themselves, however, are “absolutely unacceptable,” and that the underlying conditions will be better understood with the data.

“And not only will we understand those conditions better, but we will also have the obvious responsibility to address those challenges, to make sure that things are changing,” he said. “Things have improved over the last years, but there is a lot more work to do and we’re totally committed to do it.”

In his remarks, Mr. Duclos—who hired the Trudeau government’s first Black chief of staff, Marjorie Michel—spoke of the federal government’s “broad policy and legislative framework” to support diversity and inclusion in the public service. Asked if, based on the baseline numbers of discrimination in the public service, there needs to be not a broad policy, but a very specific one for Black employees, Mr. Duclos said that in his current and previous portfolio (he was the families, children, and social development minister in the 42nd  Parliament) he frequently observed that diversity was not only a matter of justice and equity, but also one of efficiency, and led to better decision-making and better implementation those decisions.

“And the fact that Black employees tell us they are unable to be at their full potential is something of great concern to us,” he said. “I will certainly address those concerns and make sure that every federal employee, including Black employees, has the ability to make the fullest impact on our society.”

Black public servants ‘disappointed’ in lack of message from PCO

In the wake of Mr. Floyd’s death and the protests against anti-Black racism and police brutality that have exploded around the world, Mr. Sharpe said there was some disappointment that there hadn’t been any outreach or direct message of support for Black public servants from the top voices—including Privy Council Office Clerk Ian Shugart—despite an ask from FBEC.

FBEC held a general call with about 200 Black employees across the country on June 5. “A large majority of people—because we just let people talk about how they were feeling—felt quite hurt and disappointed that there was no message coming out on the part of the public service in support of them,” Mr. Sharpe said.

Mr. Sharpe said some departments and deputy ministers have taken the initiative and sent out messages, including Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada, whose associate deputy minister, Caroline Xavier, became the first Black woman to work at that level of the public service in February.

Mr. Duclos’ office did not respond directly to a question about whether the minister has reached out to Black public servants specifically in the weeks since Mr. Floyd’s death.

Another key member of the deputy minister community, Public Services and Procurement Canada’s Bill Matthews, also communicated his support to Black bureaucrats, Mr. Sharpe said.

Earlier this year, Mr. Matthews was named the Deputy Minister Ally for the UN Decade for People of African Descent within the public service. FBEC approached him for the role, which Mr. Sharpe said is necessary for the work they’re doing to be sustained at the executive level.

“I’ve been in government long enough to know that when the moment is done, and you don’t have presence around senior management tables on a regular basis, then you’re easily forgotten, and there’s another priority or another crisis that comes in and takes your place,” said Mr. Sharpe.

Though Mr. Matthews is “a white dude that doesn’t really have an equity background,” he has been supporting FBEC in a “full-throated way,” said Mr. Sharpe, and as a former comptroller general, he brings a high level of pragmatism to his engagements with the group and its quest for data.

“We’re a government that prides itself on informed decision making, but we have no data on a people that are sort of crying out for supports and addressing issues,” Mr. Sharpe said. “So, he found that to be something that needed to be addressed.”

And despite Mr. Matthews’ full plate as the coronavirus pandemic hit and the scramble to procure millions of pieces of personal protective equipment began, Mr. Sharpe said he has still been “remarkably available” for the short conversations with the group.

The need for better data prompted FBEC to also seek out its own. It launched a survey in May to dig into Black employees’ experiences with discrimination, harassment, and career progression. The 41-question study closes June 30, and is being completed in collaboration with independent researcher Gerard Etienne. Mr. Sharpe said more than 1,000 responses have already been collected, surpassing their expectations.

In a June 11 follow-up response to questions, Mr. Duclos’ office reiterated his commitment to better data collection and analysis. The Treasury Board Secretariat and Mr. Duclos “work with partners such as the Association of Professional Executives to lead shifts in mindsets and behaviours as the public service embraces diversity and inclusion,” his office said.

Earlier this year, FBEC was among a community working with the Canadian Human Rights Commission about its high dismissal rate for race-based complaints. “We’ve since been following up with Canadian Human Rights Commission, directly with the chief commissioner and her people, around ways in which we can use disaggregated race-based data and other processes to address the fact that the system’s not working for Black and racialized people,” Mr. Sharpe said.

FBEC has also been working with the Canada School of Public Service, following up after Mr. Sharpe publicly made comments in February noting that the school has a mandate to educate, but produces white managers and staff who perpetuate anti-Black racism.

They are now developing programming that includes the Black experience, the same way that programming already includes lived experience of other equity-seeking groups—as well as having discussions with executive trainers about including education about anti-Black racism.

“That’s the institutional stuff we’re talking about that departments can do and put in place that would help, we think, over the long term that would make us … more visible and put us in a position where we’re actually a legitimate part of the public service,” Mr. Sharpe said.

Source: ‘It’s a lot of lip service’: Black federal public servants hope ‘Floyd effect’ will finally drive change as anti-racism movement grips Canada

We don’t need China to tell us Australian racism exists – just ask international students

From a student’s perspective:

Choosing to study abroad is as much a leap of faith as it is a financial commitment. The decision to uproot one’s life from the comforts of home is always made with the belief that the new place we have chosen to stake a formative portion of our lives will ultimately value our presence.

For many Chinese international students enduring the pandemic on Australian shores, that belief has been shaken. In the latest round of political sparring between China and Australia, the Chinese government has advised its citizens and students to reassess travel plans to Australia, citing a rise in racial discrimination and incidents of abuse towards people of Asian descent. Australia was quick to categorically reject the assertions as “disinformation”and “demonstrably untrue”. But political posturing rarely provides clarity on issues, and more often exposes the insecurities of the players rather than the intended show of strength.

Whether China’s caveat stems from a genuine concern for the wellbeing of its citizens or is part of a broader punitive strategy to condemn Australia’s push for an independent review into Covid-19’s origins will be dissected ad nauseam in the coming weeks. But instead of the preoccupation with how foreign powers choose to define Australian society, perhaps the more deserving and pressing matter for the government is to listen to the voices of those who live under its care.

Indictments don’t have weight without context, and whether or not it’s convenient for those in power to acknowledge, the pandemic has unearthed the reality of strained race relations that permeate Australian society. The Australian Human Rights Commission and Anti-Discrimination NSW have documented a surge in anti-Asian racism, while the Asian Australian Alliance has reported almost 400 racist incidents since April. Behind the dispassionate statistics is a traumatic inventory of lived experiences by the Asian Australian community: a bus driver verbally assaulted, two sisters spat at while crossing the street, a family’s home vandalised with hateful graffiti, an international student punched for wearing a face mask.

These racist sentiments were not spawned by Covid-19 – the virus merely amplified their potency and provided an unabashed avenue for their release. And yet, when China’s travel warnings were issued, Chinese international students quickly came to Australia’s defence, rebuking the notion that studying here was dangerous and expressing dismay that they were being used as bargaining chips in the escalating economic tug-of-war between China and Australia.