Searching for Fred Christie, the Jamaican immigrant who tried to end legalized racism in Canada

Part of our history:

Fred Christie was no stranger to the York Tavern, a popular watering hole in the old Montreal Forum.

As a season ticket holder, Christie often dropped by the tavern during hockey season.

But this was the summer of 1936, boxing season, and unbeknown to Christie, the rules at the York were different in boxing season.

He walked in with two friends one Saturday night. The tavern was crowded. Christie slapped 50 cents on the table and asked for three beers.

The waiter said no. He explained that he’d been told not to serve black people. Christie went to the bar. The bartender told him the same thing. So did the manager.

So Christie, a private chauffeur, went to court. Eighty years ago this week, the Supreme Court of Canada delivered its ruling.

In a 4-1 decision, the court recognized that staff at the York Tavern had refused to serve Christie “for the sole reason that they had been instructed not to serve coloured persons.”

However, the court concluded, merchants are free to serve who they please, and in turning Christie away, the York “was strictly within its rights.”

And with that, the highest court in the country enshrined racial discrimination in law.

It wasn’t until Quebec passed its Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms in 1975 that Christie vs. York ceased to have effect in the province — and seven years later in the rest of Canada when the federal charter was passed.

Black community rallies

The case has not surfaced in news coverage much since then.

As for Christie, he moved to Vermont not long after the decision and little is known about his life in the U.S.

But a prominent civil rights group in Montreal is using the anniversary of the 1939 Supreme Court decision to seek more recognition for Christie and the legal fight he mounted with the help of Montreal’s black community.

“It’s of major historical importance to the laws of this country and the fight for racial equality — as important as the battle of Viola Desmond in Nova Scotia,” said Fo Niemi, who heads the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR).

Niemi is hoping to persuade the federal government to issue a stamp in Christie’s honour or have him declared a person of national historical significance.

In the meantime, local historians are talking to parishioners at Union United Church, Montreal’s oldest black congregation, to gather more details about Christie.

It’s known he arrived in Montreal from his native Jamaica in 1919, settling in Verdun. According to one scholar, that neighbourhood might have appealed to Christie because it was not far from the Forum arena , and he was an avid sports fan.

Legalized racism differed from the U.S.

When Christie decided to take the York Tavern to court, Montreal’s black community rallied behind him. A young doctor, Kenneth Melville, chaired a committee that raised money to cover his legal costs.

Melville, also a Jamaican immigrant, was the first black medical student at McGill University and went on to chair the university’s pharmacology and therapeutics department.

The committee raised enough money by collecting nickels and dimes at barbershops, newsstands and churches.

“The black community was quite concerned about trying to acquire rights at a time when human rights legislation didn’t exist,” said Dorothy Williams, a historian who teaches black Montreal history at Concordia University.

“They were trying to set up an environment where they would have the same liberties and privileges that their white neighbours had.”

Legalized racism operated differently in Canada than in the United States, where a whole regime of segregation was spelled out in the so-called Jim Crow laws.

“Much of the legalized racism in Canada was enabled through private means,” said University of Alberta law Prof. Eric Adams, who has researched the Christie vs. York decision.

By invoking legal principles such as freedom of commerce, Canadian courts chose not to intervene in areas of social life where racial discrimination was occurring.

“The freedom and rights that mattered to the Supreme Court of Canada were the freedoms to conduct yourself in a racist manner,” Adams said.

In the absence of legal principles ensuring equality, which institutions chose to turn away black people at which time fluctuated in a seemingly arbitrary manner.

This helps explain why Christie would have been served at the York Tavern during hockey season but not during boxing season.

“We didn’t have written laws of segregation,” said Williams. “In Montreal, certain customs and mores were in place that made it very clear that certain people were not welcome in certain establishments.”

Law as a double-edged sword

The decision, which only runs 15 pages, was delivered just days after the start of the Second World War.

Writing for the majority, Justice Thibaudeau Rinfret claimed the York’s rule of not serving black people did not violate “good morals or public order.”

Adelle Blackett, a professor of labour law at McGill University, recalled how reading the decision as a first-year law student left her unsettled.

Blackett, who teaches the case regularly, read the decision again on Monday, 80 years to the day after it was delivered.

“I still found it painful, frankly, to read,” she said.

Even the dissent is “not exactly a strong articulation of the importance of human rights,” said Blackett, a former commissioner of Quebec’s Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission.

The lone dissenting judge, Henry Davis, argued the freedom of commerce principle shouldn’t apply because the York was benefiting from the provincial government’s control of the sale of liquor.

“It’s not rights language,” said Blackett. “It’s not: Mr. Christie, by virtue of being a human being deserving of dignity, has the right to be served and not discriminated against.”

“That’s the kind of specific language that comes through a charter of rights.”

The decision helps illustrate the ways in which human rights codes, which began to emerge after the Second World War, contributed to how Canadians interact with each other.

But for legal scholars, Christie vs. York is also a reminder that the law can be a double-edged sword — a source of protection and of oppression.

And that hasn’t changed.

“There is no monopoly on wisdom in our legal order,” said Adams.

Source: Searching for Fred Christie, the Jamaican immigrant who tried to end legalized racism in Canada

In wake of blackface scandal, actual Black Canadians left in out-of-cabinet cold

Along the lines of the previous post, just phrased more sharply but more rhetorical and easier than reviewing the record and making specific criticisms or proposals:

Justin Trudeau doesn’t care about Black people.

In a post-blackface Canada, with a post-blackface prime minister, Black representation in the House of Commons, the Senate, and the judiciary—much less cabinet—remains abysmal, with only a smattering of chocolate in a sea of mayonnaise. After all of the ostensibly remorse-filled, Lena Dunham-esque apologies, peppered with activist language such as “intersectionality” and “privilege,” one would think Justin Trudeau would’ve learned something. He did not. It was all a ruse to get Black votes, only to shut them out of the important decision-making positions.

He continues to perform in blackface.

The 2015 election seated the most ethnically diverse House of Commons in Canada’s history: five Black MPs were elected, all Liberals, three of whom were newly elected. This election held the total steady, but with four Liberals and one New Democrat. Given that the Liberals usually elect the most Black candidates, and they were the ones caught in blackface, it is more incumbent upon them to practice what they preach. And preach they do. Like Kanye at Joel Osteen’s bible study.

After Time Magazine revealed who our prime minister was, the need to put this behind them was paramount. So what does one do when faced with the revelation of such racially heinous act? You call your Black friend. Enter Greg Fergus.

In the last Parliament, MP Fergus twice held the position of parliamentary secretary, first to the to the innovation minister and then to the Treasury Board president. In the wake of the blackface scandal, Fergus was called upon to do his duty and he did so with alacrity; his was the most prominent Black face imploring Canadians to forgive and move on. He even had the support of prominent cabinet minister Catherine McKenna, who stood by his side, nodding, at a press conference. It was a grotesque display of whiteness, to have a Black man tell other Black people how they should feel about the PM committing such a racist act, flanked by a white woman.

In that moment Greg Fergus made himself an agent of colonialism and allowed himself to be used as window-dressing, or the Black face of a scandal involving blackface.

And what did he get for it? Why wasn’t Fergus awarded a cabinet position like his white counterparts for his unwavering loyalty, especially as someone who has been in the Liberal trenches since he was a tyke (he was president of the Young Liberals of Canada from 1994 to1996)? Tap dancing for whiteness never brings prosperity, especially in the ignominious position Fergus put himself in.

But here is where Black people must take some responsibility.

After Trudeau was caught with his face singed, a private meeting was held between the PM and a myriad of “Black leaders” (whoever they are) to enact Part 2 of the apology tour. While it is not known all of what happened at this meeting, what we do know is that apologies were given, Trudeau was forgiven (by them), and Black people in the 905 and 416 subsequently came out to vote Liberal. Like Greg Fergus, these “leaders” allowed themselves to be used. And that is the problem with Black leadership in this day and age: they are too happy with the crumbs from Massa’s table and are too quick to give up the currency of political power—the vote. And what did these old wise men (and I do mean men) negotiate for the Black community in exchange for their continued votes? Not a damn thing.

And this is where Black people are: no currency, no power, no payoff. We sold out our negotiating power—along with our souls—by keeping that meeting private. The lack of transparency gave Trudeau an out. Since he didn’t have to be accountable to anyone, they got played, meaning the entire community got played.

However, all is not lost. Many of the strides made by the Liberal government came about due to an extraordinary amount of advocacy work done by Black organizations, and not because Trudeau cares about the plight of Black people. Within a minority Parliament situation, Black Canadians have more power and it’s time to toss out these old dudes who can’t figure out the cloud and add younger, more diverse leadership in the Black community—including women, LGBTQ, disabled, poor, and working-class people. We can lift others up instead of the few in Black “leadership” who only act as gatekeepers to power, while rewarding themselves.

Black organizations need to start seeing other people. Every party should be lobbied by Black advocates (except the PPC, because screw them) because loyalty to the Liberal Party has just gotten Black people to the back of the bus.

There needs to be a targeted lobbying plan to address the ministries who have a hand in policies that primarily affect Black people. These ministries need to be diversified and adjusted to benefit Black needs, Black aspirations, and Black dreams. And once these dusty Black leaders finally find the exit, the community may get somewhere because not all skinfolk is kinfolk.

Source: In wake of blackface scandal, actual Black Canadians left in out-of-cabinet cold

Those who toil in low-wage jobs in the GTA more likely to be visible minorities

Of note:

The swelling ranks of Greater Toronto workers who pour coffee, clean offices and toil in other low-wage jobs are more likely to be visible minorities, according to a new report.

Although visible minorities make up just 46 per cent of the Toronto region’s workforce, they account for more than 63 per cent of the working poor, says the report being released Tuesday by the Metcalf Foundation.

Within each of the area’s four largest visible minority groups — Chinese, Black, South Asian and Filipino — the Black community has the highest percentage of working poor, at 10.5 per cent, says the report written by social policy expert John Stapleton, who used the latest census and Statistics Canada income data.

Second- and third-generation Black Canadians are especially vulnerable and often earn less than recent Black immigrants, according to the report.

Working poverty is lowest in the Filipino community, at 5.3 per cent, just above white residents at 4.8 per cent.

“It is striking and concerning that the Black population has the highest percentage of working poverty among both the immigrant population and those born in Canada,” says the report.

The growth in working poverty among and second- and third-generation Black Canadians is “particulary pronounced” among Black Canadian-born females, who saw an increase from 9.7 per cent in 2006 to 12.2 per cent in 2016, the report says.

As highlighted in a recent United Way report, the Toronto region is “coming to the uncomfortable realization that our increasing economic inequality is also highly racialized,” says University of Toronto professor David Hulchanski.

“We knew this, but now we have solid data and evidence,” says Hulchanski, who has been tracking disappearing middle-class neighbourhoods in the GTA and other Canadian cities for almost 50 years.

The report reflects “facts and trends that cannot continue if we want a productive, prosperous and harmonious Toronto region,” he adds.

The report is the second update of Stapleton’s groundbreaking 2012 analysis, which found working poverty in the Toronto region spiked by an alarming 46 per cent between 2001 and 2006, largely due to the demand for entry-level service workers to support the burgeoning high-paid knowledge sector. This includes lawyers, business and finance professionals.

Over the past decade, working poverty grew by another 27 per cent, Tuesday’s report shows.

“Although this slower growth is a welcome trend, the continued growth is troubling,” Stapleton says.

High rates of working poverty along with data that points to “the racialization” of working poverty is a serious public policy concern, he says.

“These trends ought to be considered unacceptable anywhere, and definitely in the wealthiest and most diverse metropolitan area of an affluent nation,” Stapleton says. “We all lose out when a significant part of our labour force cannot make ends meet.”

Black community scholars Carl James and Kofi Hope, who independently analyzed the report’s race-based data, say the findings have to be seen in the context of “the reality of anti-Black racism, and the reluctance of Canadians to acknowledge that this phenomenon has existed in our nation for hundreds of years.”

“This report shows why it is important to collect disaggregated data,” says James, who holds the Jean Augustine chair in education, community and diaspora at York University’s faculty of education. “And it also shows why it is important to disaggregate the visible minority category.”

Soha Mohamed, 29, a decent work project facilitator at the Victoria Park Hub in Scarborough, says the Metcalf report paints a “disappointing” portrait of the experience of Black workers.

“But it doesn’t come as a shock, especially for me, personally, and my own relationship to precarious work,” adds Mohamed, a Black woman whose part-time contract, with no benefits, expires next March.

“Even though my work is to promote stable employment and opportunities for job advancement, health and pension benefits, equality and rights at work for women, it’s also something that I aspire to achieve,” she says.

Mohamed, who has two young daughters, immigrated to Canada with her parents from Sudan when she was 5. Combined with child benefits and her partner’s meagre income as an upholsterer, their household income falls below Canada’s Low-Income Measure of about $47,000 after taxes for a family of four in 2017.

“I am already looking for work because I know my current contract won’t be extended,” she said. “There is always that level of uncertainty. What happens next? How will I pay the rent?”

The report defines the working poor as people between the ages of 18 and 64 who are not students, are living independently and have an annual after-tax income between $3,000 and the Low-Income Measure of $22,133 in 2015, the year the most recent census was taken.

By this measure, 7 per cent of Toronto workers — almost 170,000 — are “working poor.”

The working poor tend to be younger and less educated than the overall working population. And they are more likely to be men, a reflection of the loss of manufacturing jobs in the area that tended to be dominated by male workers.

Although the data doesn’t show why the growth in working poverty has slowed in the past decade, increases to the minimum wage and new and increased income supplements for people living in poverty likely helped, Stapleton says.

“These interventions, which continue to moderate the incidence of working poverty, illustrate that governments have a crucial role to play in assuring adequate incomes for residents,” says the report by the Metcalf Foundation, which is dedicated to equity, sustainability and the arts.

Strategies to reduce working poverty also need to address systemic and structural issues that continue to marginalize the Black community, the report adds.

Society needs to value work done by those in lower-paying jobs and find a way to turn them into full-time, less precarious employment.

“We believe that through higher wages, better job stability, anti-racism strategies, and more effective support programs, Toronto could reduce and even eradicate working poverty,” Stapleton says in the report.

Many of the factors driving working poverty among all GTA residents — including being a young worker, having no post-secondary education, and living outside the downtown core — are common among Black Canadians, say York University’s James and Hope, a senior policy adviser at the Wellesley Institute.

A February 2019 Statistics Canada report says 26.6 per cent of the Black population was under age 15, while only 16.7 per cent of the overall Canadian population was in that age group.

According to the Toronto District School Board, Black students — particularly males — are more likely than other students to be suspended or expelled from school and have a higher dropout rate.

And Black people in Toronto are also disproportionately watched, stopped and “carded” by police, leading to higher rates of criminalization, they add.

As far as intergenerational working poverty, James and Hope say it appears the longer Black families live in Canada and interact with Canadian institutions, “the more difficult it becomes for them to overcome entrenched barriers.”

“Further research is needed to look more closely at the ways anti-Black racism manifests to produce barriers to Black people’s success in the labour market,” they say. “This research is critical to moving forward if we are to get a full picture of what is happening within Black communities, and what policy and community responses are necessary to change this situation.”

Source: Those who toil in low-wage jobs in the GTA more likely to be visible minorities

Black families twice as likely to go hungry as white households, study shows

Disturbing findings:

Black households in Canada are almost twice as likely as white households to have trouble putting food on the table due to lack of money, according to groundbreaking new research based on Statistics Canada’s community health survey.

This is the case even when Black people are homeowners and have the same income, education levels and household makeup as white people, said Leslie Campbell, director of programs for FoodShare, which partnered with the University of Toronto on the research.

The data shows for the first time that there is a direct correlation between race and food insecurity, independent of all other factors, said Campbell, who presented the findings at a FoodShare conference on food justice and equity on Wednesday.

“When you look at the whole population, there are certain factors that are seen as being protective,” Campbell said in an interview. “But when you look only at the Black population … all of a sudden, they don’t apply.”

“For example, while it matters greatly for white folks whether your household is headed by a single parent, for Black households, you have a significantly higher probability of food insecurity regardless of your household composition,” Campbell said.

The study suggests “there are other factors — structural barriers that Black communities are having to navigate — that mean the rules don’t apply in the same way when it comes to protection,” he said.

The findings impact everyone, he told the conference. That is because people in households struggling to pay for food cost Ontario’s health care system an average of $3,930 annually, more than twice as much as those in households where food is plentiful, who cost the system an average of $1,608.

The findings are based on data pooled from five Canadian community health surveys from 2004 to 2014 and include responses from almost 500,000 individuals. The study focuses on respondents who answered all the questions on household food security and who reported their ethno-racial identity as either Black or white.

The survey, which asks 18 questions related to food and hunger, defines “food insecurity” as marginal, moderate or severe.

People in households that are marginally food-insecure are worried about running out of money to buy food. Moderate food-insecure households may struggle to buy enough food, or have to skimp on quality and nutrition. People in households experiencing severe food insecurity are missing meals due to lack of income.

According to the analysis, one in eight Canadian households — or four million people — is experiencing food insecurity. But when broken down into white and Black households — before adjusting for income, education and other factors — just 10 per cent of white households are food-insecure, while more than 28 per cent of Black households have trouble affording the food they need, the study found. After adjusting for external factors, Black households are still 1.88 times more likely to have trouble paying for the food they need, the study found.

The picture looks even bleaker for kids. While just over 12 per cent of white children are food-insecure, almost 34 per cent of Black kids — one in three — are struggling, the data shows. Food insecurity among children is linked to learning problems, greater difficulty recovering from illness and long-term health problems such as depression and asthma, according to the study.

“I have to say, I was a bit heartbroken to see how bad it was, in particular for Black children,” said Valerie Tarasuk, principal investigator for U of T’s PROOF Food Insecurity Policy Research program.

“Even after taking into account things like income and home ownership and education, we still find a substantial differential” between Black and white households, she said in an interview.

“This study says it matters for us to get a grip on race issues in Canada,” she said.

“I think our study really screams that there needs to be much, much more attention (paid) to the ways in which governments at all levels can use their policy levers to offset what has to be a fairly significant level of race-based discrimination in the workplace, the housing market, the education system, in corrections and other places,” she added.

Home ownership is seen as a buffer to food insecurity because households facing a sudden loss of income or an unexpected expense can borrow against the value of their homes to make ends meet.

“But when you compare the Black homeowner to the white, they have way less protection,” Tarasuk said.

In fact, the study found the risk of food insecurity among Black homeowners was the same as for a white renter, she noted.

The only explanation is that Black households have lower-value homes or carry higher mortgages, or both, she said.

“It’s another illustration of the ways in which accumulated wealth in our country is racialized,” Tarasuk said.

Among all Canadians who experience food insecurity, the study found that 62 per cent are employed.

Since income is the largest single protective factor that determines whether a household has trouble paying for food, Campbell said the study findings point to the lower quality of Black employment.

Jobs without benefits and part-time, contract and other forms of precarious employment impact a household’s ability to afford food, he said.

Quality of employment isn’t just about whether people are contract or full-time employees, Campbell added. It also relates to a worker’s position and salary.

FoodShare advocates for equitable access to fresh, healthy, affordable food for everyone and partners with schools and community groups to provide low-cost, locally sourced fruits and vegetables through student nutrition programs, neighbourhood gardens, local markets and other initiatives.

The non-profit organization recently raised the salaries of its lowest-paid employees by 25 per cent to reduce pay inequities, said executive director Paul Taylor. The agency also tries to ensure diverse populations are included in recruitment efforts.

A universal basic income would help people experiencing severe food insecurity, Taylor said.

“But more holistically, we really need to look at systemic discrimination in housing, education, policing and employment that all disproportionately, it seems, have an impact on Black folks,” he said.

The collection of more race-based data — particularly related to employment — would be a good place to start, he added.

Source: Black families twice as likely to go hungry as white households, study shows

Black civil servants passed over for promotions, says Independent MP

Census data for public servants, broken down by visible minority group, can be seen in the above chart. Compared to the population, Black Canadians are slightly over-represented at the federal and provincial levels.

However, median income data indicates that these tend to occupy lower-paid positions than other visible minority groups.

Part of this may be explained by the overall lower university graduation rates of Black Canadians compared to other groups in addition to the factors mention by MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes.

I haven’t recently done a recent breakdown of EX positions (ADMS EX4-5, DGs and Directors, EX1-3), so hard to comment on her statement regarding any “thinning out” at the ADM level:

Qualified black Canadians are being passed over for promotions to senior positions in the federal government due to systemic racial barriers, says Independent MP Celina Caesar-Chavannes.

Caesar-Chavannes, who is not running for re-election in October, used her final act in the House of Commons last week to shine a light on what she says is discrimination in the civil service.

She says in all of Canada’s history, no black person has been appointed as a federal deputy minister, the bureaucratic head of a department. There has also been a “thinning out” of visible minorities at the assistant-deputy-minister level, she said.

That’s why she tabled a private member’s bill that would require the Canadian Human Rights Commission to more specifically report annually on the progress — or lack thereof — of government’s efforts to promote black Canadians and other visible minorities to more senior positions within the federal ranks.

“It saddens me to know that this is the current state of our federal system,” she said in an interview.

She has heard from current and former civil servants who say they have the qualifications to be promoted, but report being passed over for more senior jobs in favour of candidates they say were sometimes less qualified.

One man she spoke with had a master’s degree, a chartered professional accountant certification and spoke French, English and German — and yet he couldn’t get promoted to a managerial position.

“They present their credentials to me and they’re frustrated,” Caesar-Chavannes said.

“A lot of others have multiple degrees, speak French and English, are dedicated public servants and they’re not able to get ahead. And I think there’s a general sense of frustration.”

Caesar-Chavannes had previously tried to get the House of Commons to unanimously adopt a motion asking the government to study barriers facing black federal employees and to seek to understand their lived experiences. The motion also called on the government to consider implementing equity and anti-racism training for all federal employees.

The motion did not receive the necessary support and it was not adopted.

Her subsequent private member’s bill, which was seconded by Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould — like Caesar-Chavannes, a former Liberal — streamlined the request to simply call for the Human Rights Commission to provide an annual report to the minister on the progress made in “dismantling systemic barriers that prevent members of visible minorities from being promoted within the federal government.”

The bill will die on the order paper once the election writ is dropped, as will any other bills left unpassed. But she hopes another MP will take up the cause and reintroduce it when Parliament convenes after the election.

“Let’s ensure that the largest employer in the country leads by example and sets the tone for other organizations to follow suit,” she said.

“Let’s establish some metrics, some criteria by which we can measure ourselves such that our federal public system is reflected, at all levels of management, of the population we serve.”

The Human Rights Commission is mandated to look broadly at the representation of visible minorities in federally regulated workplaces, but said in its recent annual report it finds this term in the Employment Equity Act antiquated.

It has recently employed new auditing tools to better understand why women, Indigenous people, people with disabilities and racialized groups still face barriers to achieving equal representation in the federal workforce. Caesar-Chavannes says more data should be gathered to get a clearer picture of the different experiences of marginalized groups.

Farees Nathoo, a spokesperson for Treasury Board President Joyce Murray, said the government believes Canadians are best served by a public service that reflects the country’s diversity, which is why a “centre for diversity and inclusion” within the public service was created, as was a joint union-management task force on diversity and inclusion. The Treasury Board oversees the federal public service as a workforce.

“As Minister Murray noted in her recent meeting with the federal black employees caucus, more work needs to be done to have a public service that looks like Canada,” Nathoo said.

Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism Minister Pablo Rodriguez’s spokesman Simon Ross acknowledged that many Canadians still face racism and discrimination, including anti-black racism.

Rodriguez is to launch a new national anti-racism strategy on Tuesday “because we refuse to turn a blind eye and pretend that racism and discrimination do not exist in Canada,” Ross said.

Source: Black civil servants passed over for promotions, says Independent MP

There’s a gaping hole in our democracy

Former Conservative Senator Oliver on the under-representation of Black Canadians.

His solutions are not as easy as he states, and certainly the current government has a good overall record in its appointments in terms of increased numbers of women, visible minorities and Indigenous peoples:

Canada was once the envy of the world with our legislation on multiculturalism, tolerance, and ethnic fairness. But our democracy, indeed all our democratic institutions, have failed us because, as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said,” our House of Commons, the heart of our democracy, should look more like the composition of Canadian society”— including more Black MPs, but, sadly it doesn’t. However, the good news is that we are capable of reaching that pinnacle of democratic excellence once again if we could just learn how to accept diversity.

Some things never seem to change. In nature, virtually all plant and animal life change and adapt with time. But attitudinal change is difficult, particularly as it relates to our Canadian democratic demographics. They seem strangled by decades, indeed centuries, of insidious, often painful, and subtle racism that prevents minorities, specifically African Canadians, from participating, in a meaningful way, in the framework of Canadian society. And that includes being elected or appointed to Canada’s parliamentary institutions. In February, during Black History Month, Prime Minister Trudeau stated that he wants to do more to “recruit and elect Black Members of Parliament.”

Last year, our prime minister also announced that Canada officially recognized the UN International Decade for People of African Descent. But so far, that recognition, like the recruitment promise, has not made its way into the heart of our parliamentary institutions. It seems that everything, from gerrymandering, certain racially biased laws and regulations, to some blatant mainstream political party racial insensitivity, have kept our political and bureaucratic institutions virtually white. Of 338 members of the House of Commons, there are fewer than 10 African Canadians. Is that representative of the Canadian mosaic? Hardly. Where are they? Why aren’t more nominated and elected?

As the United Nations puts it, for far too many Canadians, anti-Black racism, discrimination and inequality are part of their daily lives. It reaches into our democratic institutions. It’s unacceptable and, frankly, it’s time our government took some concrete, positive steps to change and correct it.

What, you may ask, is so wrong if people in the seats of power in our democratic institutions do not reflect the face of Canada? What if they are all from the white majority? So, what? Well, for one thing, anti-Black racism is a fact and a reality in Canada today. It exists. Equality of opportunity for all is non-existent. So if African Canadians are not represented, their issues, concerns, aspirations, and needs can easily be unconsciously overlooked and ignored. That constitutes a fundamental failure of our democracy.

There are answers and there are solutions. But it will not be cured with one token appointment of a lone Black person delegated to the back corner. It requires critical mass to ensure a viable result.

All of this can be easily and quickly rectified starting with executive action in Ottawa. For instance, the next 10 appointments to the Senate of Canada could be African Canadians. More eminently qualified Black lawyers and judges could be immediately appointed by cabinet to our Supreme and Superior Courts throughout the land. The next three deputy ministers appointed in the public service could easily be African Canadians. There is a huge pool of bilingual, highly skilled senior EX managers awaiting a call. The prime minister could also act on another UN recommendation because we desperately need a new Department of Diversity headed by a seasoned and qualified Black Canadian deputy minister. The next 15 order-in-council executive appointments to our largest and most powerful Crown corporations could easily be African Canadians, and all of that can be done with the stroke of a pen. It simply takes executive will. Prime Minister Trudeau could implement all of the above before the next federal election.

That’s how easy it would be to implement, throughout Canada, the directives and wishes of the United Nations for this International Decade for People of African Descent. Once implemented, Canadians could observe these talented and qualified Black men and women perform with competence and integrity in these senior positions. At the same time, the remnants of this latent anti-Black racism would slowly dissipate and disappear. These exceptional Black leaders would be part of our cultural mosaic, which makes Canada so great. And Canada would once again return to its position of envy around the globe because of the strength of our democratic institutions.

Let’s fill that gaping hole in our democracy. Now is the time for all Canadians to call on their parliamentary representatives to force the executive to carry out these changes. What a better place Canada would then be for all of us.

Source: There’s a gaping hole in our democracy

Les Noirs du Canada : éradiquer le racisme structurel

It will be interesting to see the results and evaluations of the initiatives announced in Budget 2019 in about five years). The funding and programming appears more substantive than that of the Canadian Action Plan Against Racism following the 2001 Durban Conference:

Ce texte s’inscrit dans le contexte de la Décennie internationale des personnes d’ascendance africaine (2015-2024) décrétée par l’ONU. Au cours des 20 dernières années, la taille des communautés noires au Canada a doublé, passant de 573 860 membres en 1996 à 1 198 540 en 2016.

Les communautés noires représentent aujourd’hui plus de 3,5 % de la population totale du Canada et 15,6 % de la population définie comme faisant partie d’une minorité visible ou racisée. Selon les projections démographiques de Statistique Canada, la population noire poursuivra sa croissance et pourrait représenter entre 5,0 % et 5,6 % de la population canadienne d’ici 2036. Une des particularités des communautés noires du Québec et du Canada est la jeunesse de leurs membres. En effet, en 2016, l’âge médian de la population noire était de 29,6 ans, alors qu’il était de 40,7 ans pour la population totale.

La population noire du Canada et du Québec est fortement concentrée dans les grands centres urbains tels que Toronto, Montréal, Ottawa-Gatineau, Edmonton et Calgary.

Les communautés noires, incluant les jeunes, connaissent généralement un taux de chômage supérieur à la moyenne. Le taux de chômage des communautés noires est autour de 12 %, alors que la moyenne générale est de 5 % chez les non-Noirs. Chez les jeunes issus des communautés noires âgés de 15 à 24 ans, le taux de chômage est deux fois plus élevé que la moyenne chez les jeunes Québécois et Canadiens dans leur ensemble. Nés au pays ou ayant immigrés en bas âge, ces jeunes possèdent une formation équivalente aux autres jeunes Québécois et Canadiens d’origine française ou britannique. Pourtant, leurs chances d’accès à un emploi sont moindres. En plus des désavantages relatifs à la jeunesse, tels que le manque d’expérience et le manque de formation, les jeunes provenant des minorités racisées doivent composer également avec leur différence. L’incorporation des minorités ethniques, et plus particulièrement des « minorités racisées », sur le marché de l’emploi et dans d’autres sphères de la société demeure problématique.

La notion de « groupe racisé » ou de « minorité racisée » (qui nous paraît plus appropriée), ici, réfère à un processus de racisation et indique l’extension d’une signification raciale à des relations non classifiées ou caractérisées en termes raciaux dans une phase antérieure. Ainsi le groupe racisé renvoie aux groupes porteurs d’identité citoyenne et nationale précise, mais cibles du racisme. Il est à noter que la Loi sur l’équité en matière d’emploi réfère à la notion de minorité visible, qui désigne « les personnes, autres que les Autochtones, qui ne sont pas de race blanche ou qui n’ont pas la peau blanche ».

Rappelons que la perpétuation des discriminations systémiques et leur reproduction représentent un obstacle important pour les groupes qui en sont victimes. Ces problèmes ont également des répercussions néfastes sur l’ensemble de la société et engendrent des coûts sociaux et humains.

Pour évoquer à quel point la situation est préoccupante, le Groupe de travail d’experts sur les personnes d’ascendance africaine de l’ONU relatait dans un rapport sur la situation des Noirs au Canada en 2017 que le racisme anti-Noirs découle de « l’histoire d’esclavage, de ségrégation raciale et de marginalisation ».

Des organisations à l’avant-garde des enjeux et défis relatifs aux communautés noires

Le Sommet pancanadien des communautés noires, porté par la Fondation Michaëlle Jean, la Fédération des Canadiens noirs et le Centre somalien de services à la famille, en partenariat avec une panoplie d’organismes communautaires, a réclamé des mesures urgentes face à des problèmes auxquels se heurtent les personnes d’ascendance africaine partout au Canada. Une des principales initiatives émanant du Sommet consiste en l’élaboration d’un plan stratégique pancanadien en vue d’offrir une véritable feuille de route permettant aux communautés de collaborer avec les instances publiques et le secteur privé afin de résoudre ces problèmes. Ce plan d’action stratégique s’inscrit explicitement dans le cadre de la Décennie internationale des personnes d’ascendance africaine. Il constitue la version canadienne du Programme d’activités de l’ONU pour la Décennie (ce programme demande que chaque État membre de l’ONU se dote d’un plan d’action pour la Décennie). La mobilisation stratégique générée par le Sommet a su faire en sorte que le premier ministre canadien reconnaisse officiellement la Décennie internationale. Pour la première fois dans l’histoire du Canada, le budget fédéral de 2018 a alloué explicitement des sommes destinées aux communautés noires (renforts aux jeunes Noirs, appuis à la recherche sur la santé au sein des communautés noires, collaboration avec Statistique Canada pour obtenir des données ventilées sur les communautés noires du Canada, etc.). Soutenue par le plan stratégique canadien pour la Décennie internationale, la mobilisation des communautés noires en provenance des quatre coins du pays lors du Sommet de 2019 a débouché sur des rencontres avec des ministres fédéraux. Ces rencontres ciblées et stratégiques auraient contribué à générer une augmentation des sommes allouées spécifiquement aux communautés noires dans le budget fédéral de 2019. En reconnaissance de la Décennie internationale des personnes d’ascendance africaine de l’ONU, le budget fédéral de 2019 propose en effet une somme de 25 millions de dollars sur cinq ans, à compter de 2019-2020, ce qui constitue un pas dans la bonne direction.

Au Québec, le Sommet socioéconomique pour le développement des jeunes des communautés noires (SdesJ) ainsi que le Forum économique international des Noirs (FEIN) proposent également des orientations et des initiatives stratégiques pour contribuer au développement socioéconomique et à la création d’emplois valorisants au sein des communautés noires.

Le SdesJ entend miser sur la cohérence d’une stratégie gouvernementale pour la jeunesse québécoise et favoriser des synergies dans les communautés de pratique en préconisant notamment une approche structurante et holistique. Il souhaite encourager le financement conjoint de projets et de différentes initiatives (par les gouvernements, les communautés et la société civile). Le FEIN, quant à lui, promeut l’entrepreneuriat et l’investissement comme des moteurs essentiels de la création de la richesse au sein des communautés noires. L’entrepreneuriat est au cœur de sa stratégie, puisque le FEIN mise sur l’autonomisation économique des populations noires. Il propose notamment « des solutions pragmatiques aux enjeux économiques que vivent les populations noires » en mobilisant les différents acteurs concernés par ces problématiques et enjeux pour catalyser le progrès économique des Noirs.

Ces organisations réclament un travail concerté et continu avec les différents ordres de gouvernements —municipaux, provinciaux et territoriaux, fédéral — afin d’évaluer plus précisément la situation des communautés noires à travers le Canada, en vue de définir des politiques publiques et des programmes gouvernementaux qui contribueront à produire des résultats tangibles et mesurables pour les communautés noires.

La pleine participation des communautés noires : un enjeu majeur pour le Québec et le Canada

Les membres des communautés noires continuent d’être sérieusement désavantagés. En outre, les Noirs sont moins susceptibles d’avoir accès à des emplois gratifiants dans les postes stratégiques de direction. Plus souvent qu’autrement, les Noirs sont relégués dans des positions hiérarchiques moins favorables au sein des organisations publiques comme dans le secteur privé. Ces lieux où se concentre le pouvoir décisionnel demeurent-ils « la prérogative d’un segment relativement homogène de la population ? La composition de ces lieux stratégiques de pouvoir est-elle représentative de la population québécoise et canadienne, caractérisée par une grande diversification des origines ethnoculturelles ? » Les difficultés liées au fait d’être Noir et d’être confronté de manière récurrente à la discrimination et au racisme structurels, en milieu de travail et dans d’autres sphères d’activités, créent un profond malaise démocratique et une injustice sociale qu’il faut nommer afin d’apporter des correctifs sur une base pérenne et structurelle.

En effet, une démocratie véritable requiert des institutions et des modes de fonctionnement offrant des voies d’accès ouvertes à la participation de tous les individus aux différentes sphères d’activités (sociales, politiques, économiques ou culturelles) de la vie commune.

C’est pourquoi promouvoir la pleine participation des communautés noires aux différentes instances du pouvoir administratif, par exemple, c’est œuvrer à moderniser, sinon à légitimer notre démocratie en examinant à nouveau ce qui constitue les fondements d’une société juste et équitable. Il est fondamental, en ce sens, de porter une attention particulière aux normes et pratiques en cours qui obstruent l’atteinte de cette équité souhaitable.

Source: Les Noirs du Canada : éradiquer le racisme structurel

Black people in Halifax 6 times more likely to be street checked than whites

Not unique to Halifax:

A new report released Wednesday on racial profiling by Halifax-area police found black people were street checked at a rate six times higher than white people in Halifax.

The independent report found that in Halifax, the odds of being stopped for a street check were highest for black men, followed by Arab males and black females.

The number is about double the CBC News estimate that triggered this review. The new report comes more than two years after data showed black people were three times more likely than whites to be subjected to the controversial practice in the municipality.

The report by Scot Wortley, a University of Toronto criminology professor, also found that police in the Halifax region do more street checks than police in Montreal, Vancouver or Ottawa. There were comparable rates in Edmonton and Calgary.

Street checks allow police officers to document information about a person they believe could be of significance to a future investigation, and record details such as their ethnicity, gender, age and location.

In Halifax, the odds of being stopped for a street check were highest for black people, followed by Arab and west Asian people. (CBC )

The 180-page report also found the practice of street checks has a disproportionate and negative impact on the African Nova Scotia community, contributing to the criminalization of black youth.

Wortley reported that black community members interviewed for the study said they are afraid of police, they feel targeted by police, and they are treated rudely and aggressively. They also said police treatment of black people has not improved significantly in the past 20 years.

Blacks more likely to be charged

Wortley was hired by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission in 2017 after a report from Halifax RCMP in January of that year found that in the first 10 months of 2016, 41 per cent of 1,246 street checks involved black Nova Scotians.

Halifax Regional Police figures showed that of the roughly 37,000 people checked between 2005 and 2016, almost 4,100 were black — about 11 per cent of checks — despite making up only 3.59 per cent of the city’s population, according to the 2011 census.

In what Wortley described as a “difficult statistic,” the report showed that 30 per cent of Halifax’s black male population had been charged with a crime, as opposed with 6.8 per cent of the white male population, over that period.

Wortley said this likely means black people are more likely to be charged for the same behaviour than white people. The charge rate for black males with cannabis offences was four times higher than for white males, even though there’s no evidence that black people use more cannabis than white people.

He said police street checks have contributed to an erosion of trust in law enforcement and undermined the perceived legitimacy of the entire criminal justice system.

Wortley presented several recommendations including that street checks must be banned or at least regulated.

He said it’s clear that street checks have a disproportionate effect on the black Nova Scotia community and consequences of current street check use “clearly outweigh and crime prevention benefits.”

Nova Scotia Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard said she supports stopping the practice of street checks.

“The rest of Canada will be watching what happens here,” she told an audience gathered at the Halifax Central Library, where the report was unveiled.

‘Anti-black bias’

Lindell Smith, the first black city councillor elected in Halifax in 16 years, said in a statement on his website that he hopes this is an opportunity to “repair the broken relationship with the black community and our police force.”

“As a member of the African Nova Scotian community, I certainly do not need Dr. Wortley’s report to tell me that for decades the community has felt that there is anti-black bias, and racial profiling when policing black communities. I hope that with the release of this report that we as the black community don’t see this as a ‘I told you so’ moment,” he said.

Smith said he’s been stopped many times by police, both while driving and walking in the Halifax area. He said in those instances he had the felling of “humiliation and being racially profiled.”

Across Canada, the report found the average annual street check rate was highest in Toronto, with Halifax in second place. Despite an overall reduction in street checks in Halifax in recent years, Wortley says the over-representation of minorities has remained constant.

Ontario banned police carding in specific situations in 2017 — a controversial practice that is similar to street checks.

However, Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais has argued in the past that the valid street checks performed by police officers in Halifax differ from the random stops or carding practices that are now restricted in Ontario.

Source: Black people in Halifax 6 times more likely to be street checked than whites

Passed over, bullied, mistaken for janitorial staff. Black women sue Ontario public service alleging systemic racism

A case to watch:

Two Black women employed by the Ontario public service (OPS) are suing their unions and the provincial government, alleging they suffered years of systemic racism and discrimination while their complaints were ignored, disbelieved or met with reprisals — and ultimately led to them being suspended or forced from the workplace.

In a statement of claim filed Feb. 25 with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, Jean-Marie Dixon and Hentrose Nelson accuse the provincial government of allowing an organizational culture that “fosters racism, dysfunction, discrimination, harassment, racial bullying, and abuse of authority/power.”

“Anti-Black racism, and racism in general, along with white privilege and white supremacy, are pervasive and entrenched within the OPS,” they allege, referring to the government workforce of more than 65,000 public servants employed by ministries, agencies and Crown corporations. (According to a glossary in their lawsuit, they define white supremacy as a “racist belief that white people are superior,” which is “ever-present in our institutional and cultural assumptions” and confers structural advantages to white people.)

They further allege that despite ongoing efforts to seek help from senior management, “Black and racialized employees, particularly Black women, continue to be subjected to individual, systemic, and institutional racial discrimination and racial harassment.”

Their unions, meanwhile, have failed to adequately represent them because they are influenced by the same “culture of systemic and institutional anti-Black racism,” according to their statement of claim.

Dixon and Nelson’s legal action comes one year after they organized a meetingbetween several OPS employees and government officials that triggered a temporary halt on the suspension of racialized employees — a moratorium that was quietly lifted in July.

Their lawsuit also intends to challenge the way these kinds of allegations are handled in Canada. Many of their claims relate to issues covered by their collective bargaining agreements, but the “law is designed to keep these sorts of disputes … out of the courts and sent instead to expert labour and human rights tribunals,” says David Doorey, a labour and employment law professor with York University who is not involved with the lawsuit.

But Dixon and Nelson allege their many attempts to seek justice — including through their unions, internal workplace processes and the human rights tribunal — have been “ineffective” so their “only viable recourse” is through the courts.

“It’s been very, very traumatic,” Dixon said in an interview. “When you’ve worked so hard, as I’ve worked — I put myself through school, I got here on my own and on my own merit. And someone can take that from you.”

“No dollar amount could fix the irreparable damage,” Nelson said. “I think about how my life has been altered; I can’t get it back.”

The lawsuit’s allegations have not been tested in court and the respondents — the provincial government, Association of Law Officers of the Crown (ALOC), and Association of Management, Administrative and Professional Crown Employees (AMAPCEO) — have yet to file statements of defence.

When reached by the Star, government spokesperson Craig Sumi with the cabinet office declined to comment on a matter subject to legal action but said “ending system (sic) racism” is a top priority.

“While the organization has made a lot of progress, we continue to hear that OPS programs and policies are not addressing the concerns of racialized employees, particularly Indigenous and Black employees,” Sumi said in an email. “The organization is committed to working with our employee networks to make significant progress toward building a more diverse, inclusive workplace where everyone feels comfortable and welcome and is able to fully contribute.”

Both unions named in the lawsuit said they take discrimination complaints “very seriously” and will continue to represent Dixon and Nelson, who remain members. But ALOC “strongly denies” allegations that it discriminated against Dixon and “will defend itself before the courts,” president Megan Peck wrote in an email.

“In representing Ms. Dixon, ALOC has always acted, and will continue to act in accordance with its legal responsibilities, which include the duty to represent Ms. Dixon without discrimination,” Peck said.

A spokesperson for AMAPCEO, Anthony Schein, declined to comment on Nelson’s case but said as a policy matter, the union’s view is that the OPS “continues to struggle with systemic discrimination.”

“For decades, AMAPCEO has been advocating for the OPS employer to end systemic discrimination within the OPS and promote equity in our members’ workplaces,” he wrote. “To this end, AMAPCEO ably responds to individual members’ situations through our dispute resolution process. We also push the employer to address systemic issues.”

In their 113-page statement of claim, Dixon and Nelson allege a pattern of anti-Black racism and harassment that followed them across departments and persisted throughout their public service careers.

Dixon and Nelson, both in their 40s, joined the OPS in 2002 and 2004, respectively. Dixon is a single mom and lawyer with the Ministry of the Attorney General whose office deals with seized property stemming from illegal activity. Nelson, a married mother of three, most recently worked for the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, where at one point she was “the only Black employee in an administrative role,” she writes in her claim.

Both women allege the racism they experienced took many forms, everything from bullying and micro-aggressions to racist comments, including from a white female manager who said she “feared” Black women and a colleague who complained about the “face” of the office changing after racialized women were newly hired.

Despite being diligent employees, they were denied professional opportunities, over-scrutinized and subjected to “anti-Black stereotypes and tropes,” according to their claim. Nelson, whose most senior role involved financial reporting and budget management, alleges she was once mistaken for janitorial staff and routinely given “office housework” that wasn’t assigned to non-Black staff — for example, cleaning a dirty basement storage room, or ordering taxi chits and monitoring print supplies, “while a white woman, junior to Hentrose, assumed more meaningful responsibilities.”

Dixon alleges she was also treated with unnecessary suspicion (for example, she was not trusted to maintain custody of valuable credit cards that had been seized for a case she was working on) and “unwarrantedly” labelled as “loud,” “rude” and “aggressive.” At one point, according to her claim, another Black lawyer told Dixon her office colleagues were “organizing or orchestrating acts of discrimination and harassment against her” and told him to “participate in marginalizing Jean-Marie or he would receive the same negative treatment.”

Both women sought help from managers, filed complaints with an internal workplace discrimination program, and grieved through their unions. But according to the claim, none of these measures were effective and speaking up only made matters worse.

Nelson alleges that “as a result of anti-Black racism,” she was demoted to a junior position in 2015 and ultimately forced from the workplace by “mobbing, harassment, discrimination, hostility and ongoing mistreatment.” According to her claim, she also became critically ill in 2011 and delivered her baby prematurely at six months.

Dixon alleges her complaints of anti-Black racism were interpreted as “reverse racism” against Caucasian people and caused her displacement across four ministries. According to her claim, managers eventually “engaged in reprisal” by initiating a workplace complaint against her on behalf of staff who “made false allegations” about her conduct — a complaint that led to her suspension in 2016.

Neither have since returned to work. Nelson is currently on an unpaid leave of absence and Dixon, despite being reinstated in October 2017, says she has been unable to return to work due to a workplace-induced disability. She is still being paid, however.

Both women allege they are now suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, loss of income and other harms, and are seeking $26 million in damages, along with several public interest remedies.

When reached by email, their lawyer Ranjan Agarwal with the firm Bennett Jones, declined to comment on active litigation.

In recent years, OPS leadership has acknowledged the equity challenges within its own ranks, where racialized workers comprise 23 per cent of the workforce but only 17 per cent of directors, 12 per cent of assistant or associate deputy ministers, and 9 per cent of deputy ministers, according to a 2017 “diversity and inclusion” report. “To create an equitable OPS, we need to recognize that there are systemic racism barriers that prevent people from reaching their full potential,” the OPS stated in its anti-racism policy, released last year under then-secretary of cabinet Steve Orsini, who retired in January.

The anti-racism policy found that 23 per cent of Indigenous employees and 25 per cent of Black employees reported experiencing discrimination, compared to just 13 per cent of the general OPS population. Employee survey results have pointed to systemic issues as well and in 2017, Black employees reported discrimination at nearly twice the rate of OPS employees generally. Last year, according to more than 3,600 survey respondents, race was the leading cause of discrimination next to age.

A Star analysis of data obtained through freedom of information legislation also shows that provincial ministries were named in at least 136 complaints filed with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario between mid-2008 and 2017, where someone alleged employment discrimination based on race, ancestry, colour, ethnic origin or place of origin. These accounted for roughly a quarter of all employment-related human rights complaints filed against the Ontario government during this time period.

Black employees have been particularly vocal in raising concerns through various forums, including town hall meetings organized by the Black Ontario Public Service Employees Network. On Jan. 18, 2018, more than 20 Black employees, including Dixon and Nelson, also confronted government officials face-to-face, including Liberal MPP Michael Coteau, who was then leading Ontario’s anti-racism directorate.

During the emotional meeting, the group of mostly Black women described experiencing racism on the job and being systematically passed over for opportunities. They said their concerns were ignored or mishandled by senior managers and, in many cases, led to their own suspensions or firings.

“These people that are putting us through this … none of them are ever demoted. We are fired,” one woman said in a video of the meeting posted online. “There’s a lot of Black people in the same position as I am, where they have ambition and they want to be promoted, and they’re not promoted at the same levels as our white counterparts.”

At the meeting, the group demanded a moratorium on the suspension of racialized employees — which was publicly announced the following day by Orsini. Behind the scenes, his office also emailed government ministries to request a list of cases where “someone we presume to be a racialized employee is suspended or off work,” according to internal documents obtained through a freedom of information request. About a week later, 52 cases had been identified.

Sumi said the moratorium allowed the government’s Public Service Commission to “assess the scope of the issue” while providing a central mechanism to assess new cases involving possible suspensions. It was formally lifted on July 27, 2018 after the government completed its review, he said.

In their statement of claim, Dixon and Nelson point to numerous reports, surveys and investigations that suggest the government’s efforts to address systemic racism within the OPS have “proven futile.”

Among them is a confidential 2017 report leaked to the Star, which described a “toxic” work culture within the Ministry of the Attorney General’s civil law division, where Dixon’s office is based. According to Leslie Macleod, a lawyer and former bureaucrat hired by the government to conduct the report, racialized staff within the division reported being marginalized, over-scrutinized, and “perceived and treated as less able than their white counterparts.”

Some racialized staff were told they “got in” because of their race and people felt “unsafe and targeted by colleagues and insufficiently supported by management,” Macleod found. Racialized women felt particularly disadvantaged, she added.

“It was said that when racialized women do get good files, there is an undercurrent of ‘why is she getting good files?’ — something that is not questioned when a senior white male is assigned a high profile case,” Macleod wrote.

In November, the government also publicly released an external review of the government’s workplace discrimination and harassment prevention (WDHP) policy and program “through an anti-racism lens.”

The program is meant to resolve cases of workplace discrimination within the OPS but in their statement of claim, Dixon and Nelson — both of whom launched WDHP complaints — criticized such internal processes as “ineffective in addressing racism.” Lawyer Arlene Huggins, who was hired to conduct the external review, said the government triggered the probe because of its “strong perception” the WDHP program was actually “exacerbating or perpetuating the challenges” of employees struggling with racism.

For her final report, Huggins examined 72 cases and related files; she also chose 13 cases for closer examination, which primarily involved Black women with “significant years of service.” She said employees reported several issues, including WDHP advisers who did not seem to understand the program, lacked training in unconscious bias and anti-Black racism, or pressured employees into excluding important details from their complaints. Some people said they were “yelled at, interrogated and treated like a criminal,” according to Huggins’ report.

Employees also described negative experiences that were “particular to them being Black women,” Huggins wrote; for example, labelled “argumentative, difficult and unco-operative” when they articulated career goals, accused of playing the race card when they complained about unfair treatment, and perceived as ineffective managers.

The WDHP policy does not apply to systemic barriers, yet those barriers played a “material role” in these WDHP complaints, Huggins concluded. Participants she interviewed complained of an “inherent and unconscious bias and anti-Black (or anti-racialized) animus.”

“One complainant with almost 20 years experience reported 58 unsuccessful (job) competitions since 2008,” she said.

In their lawsuit, Dixon and Nelson write that the provincial government is one of Canada’s largest employers, “entrusted with extraordinary power and influence that affect and impact the lives of all Ontarians,” so its actions are particularly consequential.

“Racism is a public health emergency,” they write. “But based on the actual and lived experiences of Black people, there is much skepticism about the commitment or ability of current institutions to address systemic and structural anti-Black racism in Canada.”

Source: Passed over, bullied, mistaken for janitorial staff. Black women sue Ontario public service alleging systemic racism

Diversity of the Black population in Canada: An overview

A really good an in-depth of the diversity in the Canadian Black population. Look forward to the next in the series, contrasting socio-economic outcomes. Important work:

There were almost 1.2 million Black people living in Canada in 2016. The Black population is diverse and has a long and rich history in the country. More than 4 in 10 Black people were born in Canada.

Among the Black population born outside of Canada, the source countries of immigration have changed over time. More than half of this population who immigrated before 1981 were born in Jamaica and Haiti. Black newcomers now come from about 125 different countries, mainly from Africa.

The vast majority of the Black population live in large urban areas. In 2016, 94.3% of Black people lived in Canada’s census metropolitan areas, compared with 71.2% of the country’s total population. Toronto had the largest Black population in the country, with 442,015 people or 36.9% of Canada’s Black population. It was followed by Montréal, Ottawa–Gatineau, Edmonton and Calgary, each home to at least 50,000 Black people.

To illustrate the growth and the diversity of the Black population, a first infographic was released on February 6, 2019. A booklet is now available to provide more information about the richness of diversity among the Black population in Canada. A number of topics are covered in this booklet including population growth, age and sex structure, place of birth, generation status, immigration, ethnic and cultural origins, languages and a few geographical highlights.



This portrait of Canada’s Black population from the Centre for Gender, Diversity and Inclusion Statistics is based mainly on 2016 Census data. It provides a demographic overview of the Black population, as well as key statistics related to their ethnic, cultural and linguistic diversity and a few geographical highlights. However, this portrait is not meant to be exhaustive.

Although it highlights the great diversity within the Black population, it does not present any result related to the several challenges and issues faced by many members of Black communities in Canada.

Challenges and issues such as those related to labour market integration, income inequalities, differential access to resources, health conditions, discrimination, school dropout, etc., may impact differently various groups within the Black population. Moreover, although the Black population generally has similar characteristics compared to the overall population, they often present different socio-economic outcomes. For example, the unemployment rate for the Black population is higher than for Canada’s total population.

Disaggregated 2016 Census data tables with selected demographic, cultural, labour market and income characteristics are available on Statistics Canada’s Census program website which can provide insights on similarities and differences within the Black population as well as between the Black population and other populations in Canada.

New analytical products will be released later which will describe in more detail the characteristics of Canada’s Black population, as well as their socio-economic outcomes.

Source: Diversity of the Black population in Canada: An overview