Asian Canadians see flaws in federal anti-racism strategy

Not surprising. The challenge is that once you name one group, others understandably feel their circumstances should also be referenced, with recent increases in anti-Asian attitudes and actions prompting this latest call. Unfortunately, no magic bullets or solutions, just an all too long slog:

Advocates for Asian Canadians are calling for improvements to the federal government’s anti-racism strategy to confront a surge in anti-Asian racism.

Avvy Go, executive director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic in Toronto, said the strategy failed to specifically mention anti-Asian racism in its foundational policy document. The document does cite anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia as key targets.

“It’s a serious flaw in the current strategy,” Go told CBC News.

“We hope that the government will amend the strategy and, more importantly, they will develop concrete actions to address racism of all forms.”

The call comes amid a reported surge in anti-Asian hate crimes across the country and abroad during the pandemic.

According to a report published in March by the Chinese Canadian National Council, more than 1,150 instances of anti-Asian racism were reported through two websites — and — between March 10, 2020, and Feb. 28, 2021. Misinformation and racist beliefs related to the fact that the novel coronavirus first emerged in China are behind the surge in attacks, the authors wrote.

In Vancouver, the police department reported that anti-Asian hate crimes climbed from just 12 cases in 2019 to 98 in 2020 — an increase of 717 per cent.

And data from Statistics Canada released in July 2020 suggest that Canadians with Asian backgrounds were more likely to report increased racial or ethnic harassment during the pandemic than the rest of the population. The largest increase was seen among people of Chinese, Korean and Southeast Asian descent.

Go, a Canadian citizen who was born in Hong Kong, said she’s had several frightening experiences herself.

Source: Asian Canadians see flaws in federal anti-racism strategy

Muslim groups on the front lines of Islamophobia aren’t getting funding

Interesting analysis at the level of Muslim sub-group level. From my experience managing the multiculturalism program, including G&Cs 2008-11, never possible to satisfy all groups and having local officials recommend projects often led to their “capture” by particular groups.

Organizational capacity is, of course, a real issue but providing this risks further increasing dependence on governments and is more difficult to sell than project funding.

Given the small size of the most funded initiatives at that time, I was never convinced of the longer-term outcomes of these projects: 

Four years ago a white supremacist walked into a Quebec City mosque and opened fire in a premeditated rampage, killing six Muslim men as they worshipped, injuring and traumatizing countless others, and altering the lives of an entire community forever.

Afterward, Canadians listened as politicians of all stripes made statements and speeches about the tragedy. But the federal government response has involved limited action. Except for passing reference to Muslims in relation to challenging online hate in Canada’s 2019-2022 Anti-Racism Strategy, any targeted focus on addressing Islamophobia appears to have evaporated since the passage of M-103, a non-binding motion condemning Islamophobia, and the ensuing report Taking Action against Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination including Islamophobia.

Yet systemic, institutional, and societal forms of exclusion remain a daily reality for many Canadian Muslims, in part because the nuances of Islamophobia as a phenomenon remain poorly understood by public leaders and institutions. This is arguably because governments aren’t resourcing nearly enough anti-Islamophobia work led by the people and civil society groups who understand the issue and experience it most severely.

Federal anti-racism funding by the numbers

In 2019, the Department of Canadian Heritage, through its Community Support, Multiculturalism, and Anti-Racism Initiatives program, allocated just 3.7 per cent of $21 million in funding to Muslim-led and -serving organizations. (This excludes funds disbursed through the Community Support For Black Canadian Youth Initiative.)

Just 2 per cent of all funds went to organizations meaningfully led by hijab-wearing Muslim women, 0.4 per cent to organizations led by Black Muslims, and 1 per cent to first-time Muslim recipients of federal funding.

The violence targeting Muslims grounded in faith-based spaces continues unabated.

Statistics from the Anti-Racism Action Program are nominally better, with about 10 per cent of $15 million in funding going to Muslim-led organizations, although the pattern of limited engagement with organizations led by Muslims most likely to experience systemic barriers persists. Just over 3 per cent of funds through this program were secured by organizations meaningfully led by hijab-wearing Muslim women, 1.4 per cent to organizations led by Black Muslims, and 2.5 per cent to first-time Muslim recipients of federal public funding.

Both the Anti-Racism Action Program and Community Support, Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism Initiatives have been shaped by the Taking Action against Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination including Islamophobia report, which recommends providing resources to communities most impacted by systemic racism and religious discrimination.

This is why it’s concerning that limited funding has made its way to organizations led by the Muslims most impacted by racism, exclusion, and Islamophobia.

Islamophobic violence and exclusion in Canada

In 2018, Muslims were still among those most likely to be targeted by hate crimes, after Jewish and Black Canadians (it’s not clear how hate crimes against persons with multiple and intersecting identities, for example, those who are both Black and Muslim, are classified or captured by Statistics Canada).

Data also shows Muslim women were more likely to be targeted relative to women from other groups, arguably due to the visibility of women who wear the hijab. Additional research shows that Black Muslim women consistently report the highest levels of discrimination among all Muslims across contexts, and Black Muslim men report significant barriers to political participation.

Today, the violence targeting Muslims grounded in faith-based spaces continues unabated. Just months ago, mosque volunteer Mohammed-Aslim Zafis was senselessly murderedoutside an Etobicoke mosque, and at least two mosques in Toronto and Edmonton received threats of violence.

Racism is also a theory about who should be trusted with resources and power.

Researcher and scholar Dr. Siham Rayale of the Black Muslim Initiative, an organization dedicated to addressing issues of anti-Black racism and Islamophobia, notes that hate crime statistics underrepresent the frequency of Islamophobic violence in Canada “because the threshold for what’s considered a hate crime directed at Muslims is often so high.” Statistics also don’t account for violence by state institutions, which typically impact the Muslims most excluded in Canadian society, she adds.

Further, “subtle Islamophobia” — which implicitly relies on harmful ideas about Muslims but occurs behind a polite veneer — is more difficult to measure. This is because it is “nuanced and not always a discrete event,” yet it is equally prevalent in workplaces and academic institutions, according to Raihanna Hirji-Khalfan, who has a legal background and expertise supporting individuals navigating human rights redress systems. Hirji-Khalfan notes this can be equally “violent and horrific … in terms of its impact” on Muslim workers and students, particularly those who are visibly Muslim.

Conversations like these highlight the importance of broadening understandings of Islamophobia from an issue of misguided individuals — hate crimes, online hate, and racial slurs — to a challenge that is both systemic and societal.

Why groups impacted most severely should be prioritized

Arguably, trends in who is impacted by Islamophobia and exclusion should drive how funding is allocated.

Research shows that efforts to address inequality led by individuals with lived experience are more likely to achieve and exceed their goals. And funding groups led by those closest to the issues promotes their self-determination and agency, and signals the legitimacy of their work to other public institutions and funders.

In particular, non-Black Muslims have the option to accept a “racial bribe” by supporting the racial status quo.

At its core, racism is also a theory about who should be trusted with resources and power. Orientalism, the racial theory from which contemporary Islamophobia originates, was used to justify European colonization of Muslim-majority societies and their resources, lands, and labour because Muslims were supposedly too barbaric and backwards to govern themselves. Handing resources over to racialized groups most impacted, therefore, challenges Islamophobia at a fundamental level.

This shows that resourcing the Muslim organizations led by persons who experience Islamophobia and discrimination most intimately is not just the right thing to do. It will also make our fight against Islamophobia in Canada more effective.

Historic resource inequities influence access to funding

With a relatively young and largely immigrant presence in Canada, Muslims here statistically have lower incomes, although they are more educated on average than other Canadians.

So it is unsurprising that many Muslim-led organizations are small and “don’t always have the organizational capacity — knowledge, relationships, time, and staff resources — to write successful grant applications,” says former Ontario human rights commissioner Rabia Khedr, now CEO of DEEN Support Services, a charity founded by Muslims with disabilities. This offers one explanation for the limited number of Muslim-led organizations funded under the two federal programs.

Additionally, many Muslim-led organizations “are new and it takes time to build up a history of projects to qualify for consideration by governments and foundations for funds,” says Muneeb Nasir of the Olive Tree Foundation, a Muslim-led philanthropic organization.

Public institutions resourcing anti-Islamophobia work need to broaden their understanding of Islamophobia.

Nasir adds that the few Muslim organizations able to secure funding are usually “well established and have [full-time] staff and connections to governments” as well as an ability to forge partnerships with registered charities, historically a requirement to access public funding. This highlights that organizations often need pre-existing resources to access public funding.

Recently, however, access to funding for Muslim-led groups has been improving, say Naeem Siddiqi, Olive Tree Foundation vice chair, and Dr. Katherine Bullock, a lecturer at the University of Toronto and researcher on the lived experiences of Muslims in Canada. In particular, Siddiqi notes that second-generation Muslim organizations that are “more sophisticated” and not faith based are often more successful in securing government grants.

It thus appears that while certain Muslim-led organizations have better access to public funding, barriers for others who face Islamophobia first-hand may persist because of resource and capacity constraints, as well as connections to faith-based spaces. But if we are to ensure those most impacted by Islamophobia, racism, and exclusion are able to lead anti-Islamophobia work, these issues of access to funding will need to be addressed.

‘Good Muslims,’ privilege, and access to public funding

As statistical data and multiple accounts by scholars and practitioners illustrate, not all Muslims experience Islamophobia and social exclusion in the same ways. Further, not all Muslims are willing to meaningfully challenge Islamophobia.

In particular, non-Black Muslims have the option to accept a “racial bribe” by supporting the racial status quo, which subordinates Black, Indigenous, and racialized people in society. “It benefits them financially, socially, it’s essentially self-interested,” says Dr. Rayale.

No intersectional analysis of how public funding is allocated is currently conducted.

Muslims who are visible and grounded in faith-based spaces, however, are less able do this because they are “not perceived as neutral and … already perceived as people with an agenda, and that agenda is not agreeable” to liberal institutions, says Hirji-Khalfan.

She cites an experience on a public board where a Muslim man “challenged me as to whether or not racism actually exists [in Canada] or people just play the race card” as an example of how sometimes Muslim people with power can play the “good Muslim,” upholding whiteness and contributing little to advancing conversations about racism and discrimination in society.

These nuances — visibility, connections to faith-based spaces, social class, and race — impact how Islamophobia is experienced and challenged, and are important considerations when allocating funding for anti-racism initiatives.

Addressing the challenge of underfunded Muslim groups on the front lines

If we are to meaningfully advance the fight against racism and exclusion in Canadian society, public institutions resourcing anti-Islamophobia work need to broaden their understanding of Islamophobia, from hate crimes and online hate to a form of systemic racism that can be implicit or overt and that exists in institutions too.

Public institutions need to prioritize funding for those most impacted. And as shown by the recent controversy in which the Somali Centre for Family Services was denied public funding, those reviewing grant applications must have strong knowledge of local communities and the organizations that serve their needs, and for public officials to build strong relationships with groups on the front lines as well.

Handing resources over to racialized groups most impacted, therefore, challenges Islamophobia at a fundamental level.

Further, public institutions should design funding opportunities through an anti-racism and equity lens — recognizing that those most impacted by exclusion may be running smaller, never before funded organizations and may not have grant applications that are as competitive as those from organizations with resources. Nevertheless, these small organizations may be more innovative and nimble, and have deep roots within an impacted community that can contribute to the effectiveness of their work.

Making capacity-building funding more accessible, so that small Muslim-led organizations doing critical work with limited resources can grow their infrastructure and become competitive, will also help address the challenges of underresourced anti-Islamophobia work.

Finally, while the names of recipients and the amount of federal public funding they receive is published, no intersectional analysis of how public funding is allocated is currently conducted. This data can be a helpful indicator of how the fight against racism, Islamophobia, and exclusion in Canadian society is progressing.

By taking decisive action in these ways, government and civil society organizations led by Muslims with first-hand knowledge of the issues can work hand in hand to challenge the roots of racism, exclusion, and Islamophobia in Canada. In so doing, we can ensure we put an end to national tragedies, as well as systems and structures that exclude and dehumanize.

Sanaa Ali-Mohammed is a community engaged researcher, organizer and human rights advocate based in Dish with One Spoon Treaty Territory. She sits on the board of Urban Alliance on Race Relations, which trustees the grant the Black Muslim Initiative received from the Olive Tree Foundation.

Source: Muslim groups on the front lines of Islamophobia aren’t getting funding

‘Always a rolling target to bring about big change’: Fergus says he’s optimistic in feds’ anti-racism strategy progress, ‘but we’re not there yet’

Would be interesting to hear the perspectives of the other parties beyond the NDP as well.

The increased funding and programming is significant, as are initiatives like breaking down visible minorities into the different groups in employment equity )What new disaggregated data tells us about federal public service …) and the Public Service Employee Survey (What the Public Service Employee Survey breakdowns of visible minority and other groups tell us about diversity and inclusion):

Nearly 18 months following the introduction of the federal government’s anti-racism strategy and nine months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister of Diversity, Inclusion and Youth Bardish Chagger says although the government is making progress, “there’s a lot of work to do here and it’s going to take some time.”

In an interview with The Hill Times, Ms. Chagger (Waterloo, Ont.) says “racism did not take a pause during the pandemic—on the contrary, COVID-19 has affected all Canadians and certain segments disproportionally.”

“If you look at every single minister and the work we’re doing, we are peeling these systems back in a way that we haven’t done before to ensure that the very people that are underrepresented and underserved are actually part of that decision-making and are informing our decisions” said Ms. Chagger. “There’s no minister that’s on the sidelines when it comes to this issue—[Justice] Minister David Lametti is having these conversations, [Public Safety] Minister Bill Blair is having these conversations, the prime minister is having these conversations.”

“Every single minister is consciously having these conversations and ensuring that these voices are being invited to the decision-making table and conscious about who’s not being invited, to ensure that these voices are also being heard,” said Ms. Chagger.

Liberal MP Greg Fergus (Hull-Aylmer, Que.), who chairs the cross-party Black Parliamentary Caucus that was first established in 2015, was also optimistic that progress is being made—but said that “it’s always a rolling target to bring about big change.”

“I would even go back further than a year-and-a-half ago, I’d go back to the budget of 2018, where for the first time ever in Canada’s history, you saw some investments which were directed at the Black community,” said Mr. Fergus. “With regard to mental health, with regard to, most importantly, disaggregated data, with regards to some community support and programming, as well as capital costs.”

“And the creation of course of the [Anti-Racism] Secretariat,” said Mr. Fergus, alluding to the unit established within the Heritage department in Oct. 2019 to the tune of $4.6-million.

“We had the election, and then we had the creation of the new ministry of diversity, inclusion, and youth, so that’s great” said Mr. Fergus. “We saw mandate letters, which laid out what we should be doing.”

“And then we had the pandemic hit, and then we had the brutal videos that came out from the United States,” said Mr. Fergus, alluding to the May 25 killing of 46-year-old George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis that was caught on video, an event that sparked outrage and mass demonstrations in the United States and in Canada, including on Parliament Hill on June 5.

“What have we seen since that time? We’ve seen a firm commitment from the prime minister to deal with this, and that was reflected in the Speech from the Throne, which delighted me to no end because it took every single one of the large subject areas that the Parliamentary Black Caucus had identified.”

In a statement release June 15, the caucus outlined a series of proposals that governments should act on to redress historic injustices in the areas of public safety, justice, representation in the federal public service, race-based data collection, as well as arts and culture.

There are some important steps which are being taken by Clerk of the Privy Council Ian Shugart and the community of deputy ministers within the federal public service to affect change as well, according to Mr. Fergus.

“All this to say—we’re making progress,” said Mr. Fergus. “Is it at the speed I want it to be? I would prefer faster. All parliamentary caucus is working on that and I daresay that the government is working on that.”

“We will get there, but it’s important to remember where we came from,” said Mr. Fergus. “When you look back at the journey, you can say there’s some pretty big progress. But if you were to compare it to where we know we should be, we’re not there yet.”

The anti-racism strategy, designed to unroll from 2019 to 2022, has a $45-million price tag.

Most recently, Liberal MP Adam van Koeverden (Milton, Ont.), who is parliamentary secretary to Ms. Chagger, along with Liberal MP Jim Carr (Winnipeg South Centre, Man.) highlighted 13 projects in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta that are part of 85 projects coast-to-coast that have already received $15-million in funding as part of the government’s new Anti-Racism Action Program.

Addressing systemic racism played large role in Throne Speech 

“For too many Canadians, systemic racism is a lived reality,” read Governor General Julie Payette in the most recent Speech from the Throne on Sept. 23. “We know that racism did not take a pause during the pandemic. On the contrary, COVID-19 has hit racialized Canadians especially hard.”

“Many people—especially Indigenous people, and Black and racialized Canadians—have raised their voices and stood up to demand change,” she said in the speech drawn up by the government. “They are telling us we must do more. The government agrees.”

But NDP MP Matthew Green (Hamilton Centre, Ont.) said he thought most of the work that has been proposed by the Liberals have been based on announcements and aesthetics, and not tackling the actual institutional form of systemic racism.

“While it is small steps in the right direction in terms of the announcements of programs, this goes beyond buying your way out of deep organizational, cultural, and institutional racism,” said Mr. Green. “There is actual legislative work within the House of Commons under the purview of the federal government, from institutions like the RCMP, to the judiciary to their own public service sector, that still clearly suggests significant challenges around anti-Black racism.”

“And there just seems to be ongoing reluctance for this government to go beyond the aesthetics of big-ticket announcements and into the actual work of dismantling anti-Black racism and racism within their government,” said Mr. Green.

When asked about the tumultuous events of the summer and the effect the mass demonstrations had on anti-racism initiatives within governments, Mr. Green said the saddest part of that moment is that it was borne of the suffering and subjugation of Black people.

“Until we dismantle white supremacy, that suffering will continue, so the saddest part about that moment is that it will never pass and it will only ever continue,” said Mr. Green. “For every George Floyd, there are dozens and hundreds of countless, unnamed Black, Indigenous and racialized people who are brutalized by police.”

“That has not stopped—in fact, in the ensuing months, we know it to be true that the police have continued at all levels to be caught on camera brutalizing people,” said Mr. Green. “And it’s not just police—we’re seeing it in our health care systems, we’re seeing it in our long-term care homes, we’re seeing it in the way that workers are brutalized in the front lines who are essential but are not paid essentially.”

“These are the ways in which systemic and institutional racism play out in Canada, and this is a moment that will never pass,” said Mr. Green. “Tackling systemic racism is more than just announcing big dollar funding for programs.”

Ms. Chagger said she understands the call for legislation to address the matter, “but no law is going to change us.”

“We have to change us—we have to look within ourselves and in our own backyards. But this federal government under this prime minister recognizes that there is a need for federal leadership, and we will continue to display it, we will continue to act upon it, and we will continue to keep an open door and work with everyone, so that we are being inclusive in the way we are developing these policies so they work for all Canadians.”

Source: ‘Always a rolling target to bring about big change’: Fergus says he’s optimistic in feds’ anti-racism strategy progress, ‘but we’re not there yet’

Reevely: Massive collection of race-based data part of Ontario’s anti-racism strategy

It all starts with having more and better data and ensuring that the data is consistent and reliable.

While there will be differing interpretations of what the data means, without having good data, society is flying blind when dealing with complex issues. While data and evidence are never perfect, they do provide a sounder basis for policy choices and political discussion:

Ontario will start collecting masses of race-based data on the programs in its biggest ministries this year, hoping to use the information to find and help stamp out systemic racism.

That’s a big deal in the provincial government’s new anti-racism strategy, a three-year plan that took a year to create.

Much of the strategy is high-level stuff, scooping together things particular ministries were doing and calling it a plan. That includes a training program for staff in the courts system so they better understand aboriginal culture, trying to make the boards of Children’s Aid Societies more diverse and having the first black judge on the Ontario Court of Appeal assess the way police forces are overseen. All of it noble, some of it genuinely consequential, most of it already underway.

There’s also this: “To address racial inequities, we need better race-based disaggregated data — data that can be broken down so that we further understand whether specific segments of the population are experiencing adverse impacts of systemic racism,” the strategy says.

They’re going to start with health, primary and secondary education, justice and child welfare. That is, in the areas where government policy really makes and breaks lives.

The systems in those various ministries generate boatloads of data already, from wait times for surgeries to rates of readmission for patients in particular hospitals, from school occupancy numbers to results from Grade 6 math tests, from trial times to recidivism rates. “Disaggregating” that data means pulling apart the stats by race, routinely, in a way that typically raises more questions than it answers.

So if 15 per cent of the Queensway Carleton Hospital’s patients are back in hospital within 30 days of being discharged, we’ll monitor whether the stat is the same for members of different racial groups. If not, why is that?

Pulling all this together means devising a consistent approach so the information is collected, crunched and presented in a standard form, while protecting privacy. Which is hard enough, and that’s before we get to what we’ll do with the information.

This is, historically, very touchy. Systemic racism “can be unintentional, and doesn’t necessarily mean that people within an organization are racist,” the government says, but being accused of systemic racism sets off the same sorts of reactions as being accused of the traditional kind.

Here in Ottawa, the police spent two years tracking race-related data on their traffic stops, following a human rights complaint by a black teenager who said he’d been pulled over only because an officer was suspicious of him driving a Mercedes (which was his mother’s). When researchers managing the study released their findings last fall, they reported that drivers the police identified as black or Middle Eastern were stopped at rates many times their population shares.

A companion study found some officers deliberately misrecording the races of people they’d stopped, staying away from some parts of town and otherwise behaving differently to shift the stats so they’d suggest less racism. To whatever extent police officers changed their behaviour so as to actually behave less racistly when they knew their work was being measured, that’s a good thing in itself, of course.

Ontario’s chief human-rights commissioner Renu Mandhane argued the stats are consistent with racial profiling; Chief Charles Bordeleau of the police defended his officers, saying there’s nothing going on in the police force beyond what’s normal in society at large.

(Something similar happened when the Toronto police released statistics on the people they “carded” — stopped in the street to ask for their ID papers. Way more black and brown people than whites, for reasons that were argued about for years. Yasir Naqvi, the then-provincial minister responsible for policing, imposed new rules scaling the practice back.)

You can use such statistical findings in a lot of ways, including flatly racist ones. Maybe the police are irrationally suspicious of certain visible minority groups. Maybe certain visible minority groups are worse drivers. Maybe they’re more likely to be driving in areas patrolled by police — a possibility that opens whole vistas of speculation about why either of those things might happen. Maybe it’s a combination of things. Collecting the data doesn’t solve the problem.

We can argue about why people in different ethnic groups have different dealings with the authorities, and heaven knows we do. Sometimes to a fault. But at least with traffic stops and carding, nobody can say any longer that it doesn’t happen, and that’s a step forward.

Source: Reevely: Massive collection of race-based data part of Ontario’s anti-racism strategy | Ottawa Citizen