Alberta cancels decades-old grant for anti-racism initiatives

Part of overall cuts, although Jason Kenney was sceptical of these kinds of grants when federal minister (not without reason):

A grant that helped fund anti-racism and anti-discrimination programs for decades in Alberta has been eliminated under the budget cuts of the United Conservative government.

The Alberta Human Rights Commission’s Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund, valued at $1 million per year, has been dissolved, according to Cam Stewart, the Commission’s manager of communications. The grant, he said, has existed in some form or another since 1988.

Stewart said the grant has helped fund initiatives and projects across the province that dealt with education and raising awareness about discrimination, racism, and issues marginalized communities face in Alberta. For example, the grant has helped fund the Alberta Hate Crimes Committee, which has been working since 2002 to develop resources and best practices that address hate-motivated crimes in Alberta.

Star Edmonton reached out to the office of Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice, for comment on the cancellation of this grant, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

According to Statistics Canada, the number of reported hate crimes has risen in both Edmonton and Calgary from 2016 to 2018. Both cities saw a combined total of 149 hate crime incidents in 2018, up from 103 in 2016 — a 45 per cent increase.

With the rise of reported hate crime incidents in Alberta and Canada as a whole, Irfan Chaudhry, Director of MacEwan University’s Office of Human Rights and Equity, said an appetite for education and awareness in Alberta has been increasing, and many of those education programs are funded by the Multiculturalism Grants program.

“There’s still a lot of division that us as Canadians maybe haven’t acknowledged, and these types of programs at least provide the space for targeted approaches for these conversations to happen,” Chaudhry said.

The grant helped fund one of Chaudhry’s projects — a podcast out of MacEwan University that was geared towards exploring narratives of hate and counter-hate in Alberta, and opening up honest conversations about these issues. He said he was hoping to tap into the grant’s funding for similar projects in the future as well.

“Because the grant is gone, there isn’t a comparable funding stream available locally, and that’s definitely going to impact future variations of projects like this,” Chaudhry said.

Stewart said the grant not only helped fund educational initiatives about racism and discrimination on a smaller scale, but also on a more systemic scale. The grant, for example, helped fund training programs on harassment and bullying in the workplace for human resources professionals, and sensitivity training for nurses about discrimination against Indigenous people in the healthcare system.

“(These projects) empowered people to address issues so they could fully participate in society without discrimination,” Stewart said.

Both Chaudhry and Helen Rusich, a program manager at REACH Edmonton who has worked on various anti-discrimination initatives in the city, expressed concerns on what the cancellation of this grant would mean as hate crimes become a more prevalent issue in society.

Rusich, who most recently worked on the Coalitions Creating Equity under the grant’s funding to develop educational material on hate crimes and hate incidents, called the government’s decision to cancel the grant “shortsighted.” She said it will be detrimental to the province in the long-run if issues of hate and racism against marginalized communities go unaddressed.

“Mosques are attacked, synagogues are attacked,” Rusich said. “I think the cost is huge, not just the emotional cost but the economic cost as well.”

Chaudhry said the funding cut also sends a message that the new government doesn’t consider racism and discrimination in the province to be an important issue that needs to be addressed.

“Collectively, this sends a strong message in terms of where priorities are for addressing racial discrimination in our province,” Chaudhry said. “It’s not looking good.”

According to Stewart, no other grant funding exists on a provincial that is aimed specifically at tackling issues of racism and discrimination in Alberta. The only funding available would now be through the Federal government, but Choudhry said those programs are not as localized, and exist on a much larger scope.

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Stewart said the Alberta Human Rights Commission is now looking for other means of funding to honour grant commitments they have already made, as well as to support future projects. Rusich said REACH Edmonton is now exploring either municipal or provincial funding to continue the work of Coalitions Creating Equity across the province.

“We will continue to do this work because it is so necessary,” Rusich said.

Source: Alberta cancels decades-old grant for anti-racism initiatives

What Don Cherry forgets about Remembrance Day, hockey and what unites Canada

Great column by Shireen Ahmed, one of the best on Cherry, and appropriate call-out. To my surprise, Rogers and Sportsnet fired him – because it’s 2019?:

Arguably the most joyous day for my parents was not their kids’ university graduations nor the birth of their grandchildren (sorry, kids.) It was the day my mother met her sports hero, Guy Lafleur. She had purchased a brand new red hijab to match her Habs jersey. My father, a white-bearded Muslim man took dozens of photos, and met Elise Beliveau, the wife of Canadian legend Jean Beliveau. Later, I could hear the lump in his throat as he recalled the moment. My parents, immigrants to Canada, were received with happiness and pride that day at the Bell Centre.

In my world, that defined what hockey should be. On Saturday night in a segment for Hockey Night in Canada, Don Cherry showed precisely what hockey isn’t.

The NHL coach turned Coach’s Corner commentator went on a rant about why, in his opinion, there are fewer poppies worn. He targeted those living in downtown Toronto – who he once dismissed at “left-wing Pinkos”- and newcomers specifically.

“You people … you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that,” Mr. Cherry said. “These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.” Any sentence that starts with “you people” should immediately raise red flags – but not for co-host Ron MacLean, who nodded along.

My maternal grandfather was in Burma fighting in the trenches with the Royal Indian Army. My paternal grandfather was in the Royal Indian Air Force. They sacrificed a tremendous amount, with the other allied nations. For Mr. Cherry to point at immigrant communities and blame them for a perceived lack of respect is disgusting and unacceptable. This, too, from a man who has never served a day in his life.

And how, precisely, does Mr. Cherry know there are fewer poppies being worn this year? And that immigrants aren’t donning them? Did he go out and survey the tin cans of donations from youth and community members selling poppies? Has he checked the lapels of people’s coats?

Further still, has Don Cherry ever acknowledged the many vets who are suffering from homelessness, substance abuse, mental health issues who get so little support? Has he commented on the Indigenous peoples who fought on the front lines only to come back to Canada and not be allowed to vote? Or the black men who served and were not welcomed in the sport he claims to love?

Does he know who has or has not supported the vets and their families with kindness, monetary gifts, and social supports? Is he familiar of the histories of black and brown bodies who were made to serve in wars created by rich, powerful white men?

If he is going to use a hockey platform, Mr. Cherry better get his facts straight.

Mr. Cherry is using his own politicized agenda to vilify people of colour and claim we are uncaring and disrespectful. His claims are not only untrue but disingenuous and unpatriotic. His sidekick, Ron MacLean, sat there nodding quietly affirming Cherry’s comments. Mr. MacLean allows his co-host to spew bigotry and is therefore complicit. I would be satisfied with Mr. Cherry being fired, but even happier with both being replaced. Perhaps with one of the amazing CWHL players – who are intelligent and talented athletes but without a league. If not them, then the fantastic team of Hockey Night Punjabi who do a fantastic job of sharing important stories and joy through hockey, in a manner that is desperately needed.

Sportsnet issued a lame apology Sunday morning, claiming that Mr. Cherry’s views are discriminatory and do “not reflect their values,” yet they continue to pay Mr. Cherry huge sums of money to share such views. If that doesn’t represent who they are as a media outlet, I’m not sure what does. Sunday evening, Ron MacLean also issued an apology and stated “I wished I had handled myself differently.” But he spoke for himself and on behalf of Mr. Cherry- and underlined that they “love hockey,” which made me uncomfortable. He called Mr. Cherry’s comments “divisive.” He spoke about making amends and in order to make amends, the mic needs to be passed. And for once, these men need to sit down, and just listen. A way to move forward is to simply get out of the way of progress.

Mr. MacLean also expressed that “our diversity is one of our country’s greatest strengths.” I agree with that; that diversity needs to be reflected in hockey media, and on Hockey Night in Canada.

It is time for Sportsnet to cut ties with Mr. Cherry unless they are keen on bankrolling the intolerant, unacceptable systems of discrimination that ruin sport. Fighting for justice and equality is what hockey needs. Don Cherry is the enemy of this fight. He needs to be muted – permanently.

For many Canadians, Remembrance Day is a time of solemn reflection, and on how to make this country better. I will honour my late grandfathers by fighting against bigotry.

We don’t need to be lectured on how to respect veterans and remember sacrifices – and certainly not by Don Cherry. Hockey deserves far more. Hockey is for everyone.

House-hunting as an Asian immigrant in Vancouver means navigating racism

Account how some of the general narratives about Chinese and Chinese Canadians play out at the individual level. Although stating that her car is a Porsche (no shame, she works hard, and a good reporter) perhaps a detail that reduces empathy:

When my mother graduated from high school in Hong Kong in the 1970s, she and her friends did not have the luxury of going straight to college or spending a “gap year” travelling the world.

At age 18, she worked as a secretary all day and attended class in the evenings to earn a degree in business administration, while also studying English and shorthand.

She made 500 HKD a month, which was roughly equivalent to $80 Canadian at the time. Adjusted for inflation, that would still be less than $500 Canadian a month. My dad was working long hours, meanwhile, as a salesman for commission.

In my parents’ first home as a married couple, they lived in a flimsy shack on the rooftop of a high-rise building, which they jokingly referred to as their penthouse. It was better than when they bunked with their parents and siblings, with both families stuffed into 200-square-feet studios.

They saved fastidiously. My mom socked away half her salary each month and invested the money. Since she was constantly upgrading her skills at night, she also jumped jobs to double and triple her salary. By the time I was born, she had a fairly comfortable government job and my dad had moved up the ranks to general sales manager.

Yet they gave it all up to start over again in their early 30s. After selling their apartment, my parents moved to Canada, in hopes of giving their children a more secure future in a democratic country.

I’m now the same age they were when they settled in Vancouver. Even though I haven’t been quite as disciplined, because I followed their example of jumping jobs and working multiple gigs at once, I’ve saved enough and I’m looking for a home of my own.

Searching for a condo in Vancouver as an Asian immigrant is a fraught and emotional experience. Why? Because there is a class struggle centred around housing affordability happening in the Lower Mainland — and it’s led to outright racism, ageism, classism and xenophobia.

If you chat with any Asian person in Vancouver, they’re likely to say they’ve noticed an uptick in racism, of people who voice their assumptions that they are recent migrants with bucketloads of cash and are driving up the real estate prices for “locals” and “real Canadians.”

Earlier this year, a stranger confronted and raged at me that my Porsche had almost struck her. I was dumbfounded. I commute an hour to work on public transit every day. Other times, people have simply shouted: “Chink!” at me, as I walked down the street.

At an apartment pre-sale event in Burnaby, I saw a one-bedroom that cost less than $450,000, and I couldn’t help blurting out, “Wow, that’s pretty cheap!”

It was a very crowded exhibition hall and immediately, everyone around shot dagger eyes at me and one white lady made a furious sound that sounded like “Eeuarrrckk!” then hissed under her breath, “Go back to China, bitch.”

And that’s just what I get as a young person. My parents are both boomers and immigrants, and even though they are so law-abiding they wouldn’t jaywalk, let alone engage in seedy real-estate fraud, they represent the most popular scapegoats for soaring real-estate prices in this city.

At best, it’s an unhealthy “us” versus “them” dynamic — at worst, it’s bigotry.

“I would never sell to a ‘housewife’ from China,” someone wrote to me in response to my first house-hunting story. The insinuation was that these people are undeserving of homes in Vancouver.

It makes me sad to see valid frustration about rising unaffordability lead to ugly attitudes toward people who are eager to become Canadians. My first job as a teenager was working as an English tutor, where I was mostly employed by “astronaut families.” Usually, it is the father who stays and works in the home country, planning to make money and join his family later, while his wife and children move abroad. The astronaut mothers that I knew were devoted to their kids’ educations, hiring multiple tutors and music teachers in ardent hope of helping them build bright futures in a new land.

Source: House-hunting as an Asian immigrant in Vancouver means navigating racism

How much hate crime does Canada have? Without a standard definition, no one knows for sure

I don’t fully understand the Alberta Human Rights Commission’s point given that the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system used to identify and report on hate crimes and is used by police forces and Statistics Canada for annual reporting.

There may well be consistency issues between officers and police forces, or inadequate guidelines, but complete absence?

Police departments across Canada have different ideas of what constitutes a hate crime, a new CBC investigation shows.

As a result, experts say it’s impossible to have accurate numbers that show which communities are struggling.

Police departments use different definitions of hate crime, which means how crimes are identified as hate-motivated differs from region to region and even among police officers investigating complaints. Some municipalities have comprehensive definitions that include gender identity and expression, while others have no formal definition at all.

The lack of a countrywide definition means Canadians don’t have an accurate reflection of how prevalent hate crime really is, says Stephen Camp, president of the Alberta Human Rights Commission’s hate crimes committee.

That means the federal government, he says, has no idea where to put resources to stop it.

Statistics Canada numbers show there were 1,798 hate crimes in Canada last year, Camp said, but there were likely more than that.

“What needs to occur for a number of reasons, not just for statistical gathering, is to have a national definition of hate crime incorporated into the Criminal Code,” he told CBC News.

Without a standard definition, he said, the current statistics are “not an accurate number of what’s going on in Canada.”

Consideration in sentencing

The Criminal Code of Canada has sections around hate propaganda, specifically advocating for genocide. It has sections for the public incitement of hatred and mischief relating to religious property. But it only considers “hate crime” as part of how someone is sentenced, not in the initial charge itself.

The current statistics, Camp said, show “the leaders in our society that the problem is not as bad as it sometimes is purported to be,” he said. “Then that equals insufficient resourcing and insufficient policies and legislation.”

Some services, like the Ottawa Police Service, define a hate crime as one motivated by “hate/bias or prejudice based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or any other similar factor.”

Quebec provincial police, meanwhile, don’t have a formal definition at all.

Of the 19 police services that provided their definitions to CBC News, eight of them mention gender identity. Only a handful mention discrimination based on someone’s “real or perceived” race or religion.

Both of those are important, says Irfan Chaudhry, a hate crimes researcher at MacEwan University in Edmonton.

The absence of gender expression, he said, means the definitions police services are using haven’t caught up to Canada’s Human Rights Act.

As for “real or perceived” race or religion, there may be cases where a culprit targets someone based on a misconception, Chaundhry said. A Sikh, for example, might be targeted by someone who mistakes the person as Muslim.

Different instructions

Without a standard definition, police services even give different instructions to their frontline officers about how to identify and investigate hate crimes, Camp said.

If this is a priority for Canada, he said, then it should be reflected with a uniform Criminal Code definition officers would use when laying a charge.

“The Criminal Code is a reflection of our ethics, morals and values in society, and Canada continues to purport to be a society that is pluralistic and inclusive, and safe,” he said. “So why is there not a hate crime section in the Criminal Code to reflect that?”

CBC News reached out to the major political parties to see who would be committed to establishing a uniform hate crime definition after the Oct. 21 federal election.

The Liberal Party said it would “improve the quality and amount of data collection Statistics Canada does regarding hate crimes in Canada.”

A Liberal government would also “create effective and evidence-based policies to counteract these crimes,” the party said in an emailed statement.

The Conservatives said in an email that the party believes “in making criminal justice policy based on evidence.”

“If the information being made available is not accurate,” the party said, then “a Conservative government will certainly look into addressing the issue.”

Looking for an accurate picture

The NDP says there are still some major Canadian cities without hate crime units and that if the party is elected on Oct. 21, it would provide money and resources to make sure every city has one.

“We will also work with provinces, experts and law enforcement to determine a clear and consistent definition of hate crimes so the data we collect and use is more accurate,” a party spokesperson said in an email.

The People’s Party of Canada says it would “look into if there is a need to make data collection uniform and better allocate resources.”

The Green Party said it would “ensure all police forces understand Canada’s hate laws.”

Camp said governments and police agencies owe it to the public to have an accurate picture of the location and prevalence of hate crimes.

“Without that,” he said, “we’re not doing our job as public servants.”

Source: How much hate crime does Canada have? Without a standard definition, no one knows for sure

Police reported hate crimes definition (StatsCan): Police-reported hate crime in Canada, 2017 – Statistics Canadahttps://www150.statcan.gc.ca › pub › article › 00008-eng

Merkel warns against racism on anniversary of German reunification

Impressive as usual:

Chancellor Angela Merkel made a veiled attack on the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party on the 29th anniversary of German reunification on Thursday, saying economic grievances in the east were no excuse for racism.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel poses with Mayor of Kiel Ulf Kampfer and President of the German Federal Council Daniel Gunther during the celebrations to mark the 29th anniversary of the country’s reunification, in the northern city of Kiel, Germany, October 3, 2019. REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen

In a speech marking the anniversary, Merkel cited a government-commissioned report that found economic discrepancies between the eastern and western parts of Germany and which said people in the east feel like second-class citizens.

But she said this was no justification for verbal attacks on foreigners under the guise of free speech, and that such attacks threatened democracy in Germany. Shortly after she spoke, about 600 people took part in a far-right rally in Berlin, with some carrying German flags and waving anti-Islam placards.

Merkel did not mention the anti-migrant AfD by name but it has stronger support in eastern parts of Germany and made big gains in elections in two eastern regions last month.

“It should never be the case that disappointment with politics, however significant, be accepted as a legitimate reason to marginalise, threaten or attack others because of their skin color, religion, sex, or sexual orientation,” Merkel said in the northern city of Kiel.

“The values of our constitution must guide each and every debate in our country,” she said. “In concrete terms this means, ‘Yes’ to open debate, ‘Yes’ to tough demands from politics, ‘No’ to intolerance, ‘No’ to marginalisation, ‘No’ to hate and anti-Semitism, ‘No’ to living at the expense of the weak and minorities.”

RISE OF AfD

Merkel’s conservatives and their Social Democrat (SPD) coalition partners have accused the AfD, the largest opposition party in parliament, of legitimizing a language of hate that spurs violence.

They have said the AfD manipulates the grievances of eastern Germans – about lower wages and pensions, an exodus of young people, plans to phase out coal and the challenge of integrating a record influx of refugees – to make political gains through populism.

The AfD, which entered parliament two years ago in elections that were shaped by disquiet over Merkel’s decision in 2015 to welcome almost 1 million migrants, says it has always distanced itself from violent, far-right extremists.

The deadly shooting of a pro-immigration conservative politician in June and a rise in anti-Semitism have fueled debate about the anti-immigrant speeches of some AfD leaders.

The party has about 10% support in western regions and is polling at around 14% nationally.

The report cited by Merkel showed east Germany’s economic strength has risen to 75% of the west German level from 43% in 1990. Employment is at a high in the east and wages there are 84% of those in the west, it showed.

The report found that less than 40% say reunification was worth it and less than half are happy with democracy in Germany.

“A lot has been achieved in the past 29 years. In the west as well as in the east, people are all in all happier with their lives than at any other moment since reunification. But we also know that this is not the whole truth,” Merkel said.

“We must all learn to understand why reunification for many people in eastern states is not only a positive experience.”

Source: Merkel warns against racism on anniversary of German reunification

Jagmeet Singh is poised and pitch-perfect in the face of a slur

Worth noting:

From the moment the man approached, Jagmeet Singh seemed to sense tension. The NDP leader—the first Canadian federal leader whose skin colour is not white—greeted the Quebec resident in Montreal’s Atwater Market by reaching out and gently touching his arm. “Good to see you, sir,” he began. “You okay?” The man seemed okay, a little quiet, a little hard to read. Then he leaned in. “You know what?” he muttered. “You should cut your turban off…. You’ll look like a Canadian.”

And there it was: a quiet moment of casual racism that, were it not for the CBC video crew and Singh’s lapel mic, would have never been seen by the Canadian public. For Canadians of colour, the scene may seem irritatingly familiar; for the entire country, it is stunningly intimate, so quick and subtle that neither man even looks uncomfortable.

Singh’s response was unflappable: “Oh, I think Canadians look like all sorts of people. That’s the beauty of Canada.” The man did not sound cruel or malicious; indeed, he may not even have considered his comment racist.

It’s not a stretch to assume he supports Quebec’s controversial Bill 21, the “secularism bill,” which bars government workers (including teachers) from wearing religious symbols such as kippas, hijabs or turbans. The law, which is being challenged in court—but which neither Singh nor his main rivals will fight if elected—is a blatant imposition of one group’s values upon a multicultural society.

Yet a striking number of Quebeckers are okay with it. As the man in the video tells Singh, “In Rome, you do as the Romans do.”

To this, as well, Singh’s reply was a master class in dealing with racism: “This is Canada. You can do whatever you like.” Singh walked off to shake some more hands after that, as his new friend called out some surprisingly cordial parting words: “Take care. I hope you win.”

Even if Singh doesn’t win the election, he won this moment.

Source: Jagmeet Singh is poised and pitch-perfect in the face of a slur

Quebec’s Bill 21 should also stir anti-racist outrage among party leaders

Good column by Jack Jedwab:

Somewhat unexpectedly, the issues of discrimination and racism have moved to the forefront in the federal election. At the start of the campaign, answering a journalist’s question about Quebec’s secularism Bill 21, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau left open the possibility of some eventual legal intervention on the legislation. Predictably, there was an almost immediate response from Quebec Premier François Legault, asking all federal leaders to make a pledge to stay out of the matter. With the exception of Trudeau, the other federal party leaders quickly complied. Bill 21 prohibits the wearing of religious symbols by Quebec public school teachers, judges, police officers, prison guards, Crown prosecutors and other public servants in positions of authority, as a way of enshrining the concept of state secularism.

And then, just as the campaign’s attention on Bill 21 waned, some very distasteful photos of a younger Trudeau in brownface and in blackface hit the national and international media. Trudeau apologized many times for his past behaviour and correctly acknowledged that it was highly offensive.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer insisted that the blackface pointed to Trudeau’s lack of judgment and as such raised questions about his ability to govern. During a September 20 campaign stop in PEI, Scheer said all levels of government need to address the types of issues raised by such conduct. He said that “Conservatives will always support measures that tackle discrimination…We’ll always promote policies that promote inclusiveness and equality throughout our society.” Ironically, that’s precisely what needs to be said in addressing Bill 21.

For his part, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh made an impassioned plea to all Canadians who were offended by the images of Trudeau in blackface. He chose to speak to those people who have felt the pain of racism and urged them not to give up on themselves, adding that they have value and worth and that they are loved. But that message does not appear to apply to those persons affected by Bill 21. Singh seems unwilling to defend those Quebecers who wear a turban, hijab or kippah and want to teach at a public school in their home province. Paradoxically, while Singh can become prime minister of Canada, he would be unable to teach at a public school in Quebec under Bill 21. By insisting on the need to respect provincial jurisdiction, Singh implies that members of religious minorities need to give up their hope of seeking a career in public service.

Both Scheer’s and Singh’s criticisms of Trudeau and the related concerns about the spread of racism would be more credible if they denounced the discriminatory aspects of Bill 21 rather than bowing to the Quebec Premier’s demands and looking the other way on what Legault insists is a strictly provincial matter.

Perhaps, like many observers, the federal party leaders don’t see any connection between blackface and a state prohibition against educators wearing hijabs, turbans and kippahs in public institutions. Yet the case can surely be made that both arise from subconscious or overt feelings and/or expressions of prejudice that are, regrettably, deemed acceptable by far too many people. The difference is that Trudeau’s use of blackface occurred two decades ago, while the legislation banning religious symbols is the object of current debate.

In the aftermath of the Trudeau blackface incidents, there have been calls for a national conversation about racism. But the tone of this election campaign does not allow for a thoughtful discussion about the ongoing challenge of eliminating racism and discrimination. Ideally, all federal party leaders should work together to combat racism and discrimination, whether it appears in Quebec or anywhere else in the country.

Source: Quebec’s Bill 21 should also stir anti-racist outrage among party leaders

Scheer says he would continue Liberals’ $45M anti-racism strategy

Unfortunately, behind the paywall but nevertheless interesting.

Of course, if we judge by the previous Conservative government, which drastically reduced the resources dedicated to multiculturalism and anti-racism programming (The Conservative legacy on multiculturalism: more cohesion, less inclusion):

The Liberal government’s $45-million anti-racism strategy isn’t going anywhere under a Scheer government, the Conservative leader says.

Asked by a reporter in Thorold, Ont., on Tuesday whether he supports the anti-racism plan put forward by the Trudeau government this year, and the approach it is taking, Andrew Scheer said he would continue to back such programs.

Source: Scheer says he would continue Liberals’ $45M anti-racism strategy

TTC commits to using race-based data to eliminate discrimination: ‘Every rider’ should feel ‘safe and respected’

Of note:

The TTC says it’s taking steps to combat concerns about racial bias at the agency, including making a commitment to use race-based data to identify and eliminate discrimination, and strengthening its policies for investigating complaints about its transit officers.

The measures are part of ongoing anti-bias efforts the TTC has embraced following two race-based controversies it was forced to grapple with earlier this year: a Star investigation that raised concerns transit officers were disproportionately targeting Black riders for tickets and recording their personal information when they were issued warnings; and a damning city ombudsman report that found serious flaws with the agency’s investigation of three fare inspectors who pinned a Black teen to the ground at a streetcar stop in February 2018.

In a staff report released Wednesday that provides an update on those efforts, the transit agency acknowledged “the public’s concerns regarding racial profiling and anti-Black racism in transit enforcement activities should be taken seriously,” and described taking “proactive” measures to address the issue as vital to “restor(ing) public trust.”

The TTC had already moved to take action in the wake of the Star investigation and ombudsman report, including a review of its policies around the collection of riders’ personal information and creating an agency-wide anti-racism strategy.

The new report, which will be debated at the TTC board meeting Tuesday, adds to those initiatives by making a clear commitment to start collecting and analyzing race-based data to combat discrimination.

Few details were provided about the plan, which is still in development. But it follows the Toronto Police Services Board moving toward what appears to be a similar policy that would have the force document the race of citizens its officers interact with in a broad range of circumstances.

While institutions collecting race-based data about members of the public has been controversial in the past, anti-racism groups have more recently thrown their support behind the idea. They argue that if it can be done while protecting citizens’ privacy and human rights, it can help document and fight discrimination.

Nigel Barriffe, president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, argued the TTC collecting comprehensive racial information about its riders would provide data to support the assertion common among many Black transit users that they face discrimination on the system. That in turn would help the TTC develop evidence-based policies to address the problem.

“It takes it from being just anecdotal to being, here’s the hard data that demonstrates that they’re overpoliced, that they’re unfairly targeted when they take the TTC,” he said.

The Star investigation published earlier this year found that since 2008 TTC officers had collected the personal information of more than 40,000 riders who were issued warnings for alleged offences on the transit system, and the numbers suggested a disproportionately high number of them were Black. For years, transit officers used the same forms to collect the information that Toronto police used for “carding,” a practice widely criticized as discriminatory. The TTC kept the data, which could include a rider’s name, address, driver’s licence number, physical appearance, for 20 years.

The Star also found Black riders appeared to be overrepresented in tickets issued to TTC users for fare evasion and other offences.

While acknowledging public concerns about bias, the TTC maintained the transit agency database the Star analyzed hadn’t been recorded in a reliable way and couldn’t be used to draw conclusions. It denied its officers were “carding” riders or discriminating against any group.

The agency discontinued use of police-style forms in March, and stopped collecting personal information from riders not charged with an offence pending a review.

The report says the agency is hiring an unspecified third-party expert to conduct that review, which is aimed at improving and standardizing the TTC’s collection of personal information, and ensuring its data collection policies align with privacy and human rights legislation, according to the report.

The experts will examine the TTC’s historical use of data and develop a “framework for the collection, analysis and retention of race-based data for equity purposes that will eliminate bias within the system.”

Agency staff will report back to the board in early 2020.

The report states that in addition to improving data collection policies, the TTC has taken steps to implement recommendations in the July report from Toronto Ombudsman Susan Opler into fare inspectors’ violent takedown of a Black teen named Reece Maxwell-Crawford along the St. Clair streetcar route last year.

The TTC’s original investigation, released in July 2018, all but completely exonerated the officers involved. But Opler determined the transit agency’s investigator failed to examine evidence of potential racial bias. She also found he wasn’t sufficiently independent from the officers he was tasked with scrutinizing because before taking on the investigator role he’d worked for the transit enforcement unit for more than 10 years and knew many of its members.

The TTC has now appointed an interim investigator “with no previous connection” to the unit, according to the new report. The interim investigator will handle allegations of minor misconduct against fare inspectors, while third-party investigators would be called in for more serious cases.

In the longer term, the TTC plans to establish “a new, independent, dedicated team of internal investigators” to look into allegations against members of the transit enforcement unit.

In addition to pledging to implement all the ombudsman’s recommendations, TTC CEO Rick Leary announced in July the agency would take further steps, including setting up an anti-racism task force, adopting the city’s Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism, reviewing TTC policies using an anti-racism analysis, consulting with affected communities, and providing enhanced anti-bias training to all employees. Those initiatives are ongoing.

In a written statement, TTC Chair Coun. Jaye Robinson (Ward 15, Don Valley West) said that while the agency “has taken tangible steps” to improve its policies, the measures to date are “the beginning of a long and complex process.”

“It is imperative to make (sure) every rider and operator feels safe and respected across the TTC network,” she said.

Source: TTC commits to using race-based data to eliminate discrimination: ‘Every rider’ should feel ‘safe and respected’

Elizabeth May says there’s ‘no room’ for racism in Green Party after NDP defector’s comments

Let’s not kid ourselves by denying that racist attitudes don’t exist and that the comments by Richardson were more in that line than himself endorsing those views.

The question is more whether the “undertone” is more on the discomfort side or more xenophobic and racist.

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May issued a statement Wednesday saying “there is no room for any kind of racism” in her party after a recent convert made comments about NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.

On Tuesday, more than a dozen former New Brunswick NDP candidates threw their support behind the provincial and federal Greens. One of the defectors — Jonathan Richardson, the former federal NDP executive member for Atlantic Canada — said racism was one of the reasons for the party’s lack of success in finding candidates with an election call imminent.

He said he travelled around the province to meet NDP members and found there’s “a bit of racism undertone,” particularly in the northern part of the province.

“From when I was up in the [Acadian] peninsula, I would say that a lot of that region that most people would be a bit worried about somebody who wasn’t, you know, wasn’t Caucasian, and that’s going to take some time to show people that, you know, Canadians come in all cultures and diversities,” he said. “But for right now I think that that racism still exists.”

Singh is a practising Sikh and wears a turban.

Singh said all national party leaders should be celebrating Canadian diversity and that May needs to explain why she has let the former New Democrats into her party.

“She’s taking in candidates that have kind of openly expressed their concern around someone looking differently and that being a challenge,” Singh said in Toronto on Wednesday evening. “If she is accepting people that are suggesting things that are not accepting of people’s diversity, then the Green Party has a lot to answer for.”

“I think our political leaders should embrace the diversity of our country and should be willing to say you can look like whatever you are as long as you share the values and beliefs that are going to make peoples’ lives better.”

NDP MP Charlie Angus tweeted that “the fact that some N.B. NDP jumped ship because they wouldn’t run under a progressive leader who comes from another religion is sickening.”

Karl Belanger, a former national director of the NDP, also weighed in, tweeting that it’s “not a good look, New Greens.”

May issued a statement Wednesday saying Richardson’s comments “were taken out of context and have led to accusations of racism against the party.”

“One of the core values of Greens around the world is respect for diversity and human rights,” she said.

“There is absolutely no room for any form of discrimination in the Green Party. We have zero tolerance for sexism, Islamophobia, misogyny, homophobia or hate speech of any kind. Canada’s strength lies in its diversity.”

New Brunswick Green Party Leader David Coon said he hasn’t had a chance to speak to Richardson since he made the comments, but he contends they’ve been “overblown” and “exploited” by people trying to “blunt the impact” of 14 NDP candidates joining the Greens all at once.

“What I heard him say basically was he ran into some people who had ignorant attitudes and held prejudices against people of colour or people of different religions,” he said.

“It’s not a news flash racism and prejudice exists in Canada, and it’s abhorrent and we need to work to stand up to it and stamp it out.”

Coon said he travels the province regularly and, in his experience, “most” New Brunswickers are “very accepting.”

The NDP hasn’t held a seat in the New Brunswick legislature since 2005. Its last MP in the province was Acadie-Bathurst’s Yvon Godin, who retired in 2015.

Richardson told CBC News Tuesday there are other factors behind NDP’s diminished standing in New Brunswick — including the fact that Singh hasn’t set foot in the province since winning the leadership in 2017, the election planning committee’s focus on “urban areas that are diverse,” and a lack of staffing.

Coon said he doesn’t believe racism has played a role in the NDP’s troubles in the province. He contends the NDP has been struggling in New Brunswick since Elizabeth Weir stepped down as provincial party leader in the mid-2000s.

“So it’s been a long process where they’ve found significant challenges in resonating with the people of our province. And so I think that it’s not just one issue,” he said.

New Brunswick Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers said he “couldn’t disagree more” with Richardson’s comments, which he said imply that New Brunswickers are “inherently racist.”

“The New Brunswick I know welcomes and embraces people of all backgrounds,” he said in a statement.

“These comments are wrong, embarrassing for the province and should be embarrassing for Green Party Leader David Coon.”

Coon, whose Green Party is enjoying a boom in support, securing three seats in the 2018 provincial election, said Richardson will have to take responsibility for his words. “It’s his point of view and he’s the one who’s going to have to defend that.”

Late Wednesday, Richardson posted the text of his speech on Facebook, “for those out there who are wondering and asking questions.”

Richardson said he will not be answering questions from the general public or media, but would be “happy to have a conversation” with any of his friends.

Source: Elizabeth May says there’s ‘no room’ for racism in Green Party after NDP defector’s comments