Does Canada’s census undercount visible minorities?

A relatively minor issue IMO compared to other priorities given only affects less than 3 percent of Census respondents (but likely to increase over time given mixed unions).

The separate issue of Blacks being counted only as part of visible minorities applies only to the federally regulated sectors (banking, communications, transport) and TBS now provides disaggregated data for visible minorities, Indigenous peoples and Persons with disabilities for the last four years (summaries in the annual employment equity groups, detailed tables on open data – https://www.canada.ca/en/treasury-board-secretariat/services/innovation/human-resources-statistics/diversity-inclusion-statistics.html).

And of course, the census data has these breakdowns that allow a wide range of analysis of socioeconomic status and other issues:

Statistics Canada is working to improve how it collects and analyzes data about people who belong to more than one visible minority group, as critics fear the federal agency’s current methodology has led to an “undercount” of racialized populations.

Ever since questions about visible minorities were added to the census in 1996, people belonging to those population groups have been classified in several ways.

At issue are those who check off more than one group out of the listed options: Chinese, South Asian, Black, Arab, West Asian, Filipino, Southeast Asian, Latin American, Japanese and Korean. Those individuals are lumped together in one group — which Statistics Canada calls “multiple visible minorities” — and are not broken down by the pairs or combinations of groups to which they belong.

Someone who checks off Black and Arab, for example, is included in that catch-all category, instead of being counted as part of Canada’s Black or Arab population. In contrast, people who identify as part of a visible minority group and the white population are counted, in most cases, as a member of whichever minority group they endorsed.

In the 2016 census, 232,275 people — or 2.7 per cent of the total visible minority population — were identified as multiple visible minorities.

That’s led some people, like Toronto lawyer Courtney Betty, to question whether the true number of people belonging to specific communities is being counted inaccurately.

“The whole idea of the census is to know how many individuals are within the population of our society, and potentially get a breakdown, so that we can do proper planning as to how we’re going to look at growth and also allocate economic resources,” Betty told the Star. “If you don’t have a proper count, that can’t happen.”

Betty is one of people leading the legal team representing hundreds of current and former Black public servants involved in a proposed class-action lawsuit, which alleges decades of discrimination and harassment within federal departments and agencies.

The multiple visible minorities category is being considered in the context of the lawsuit as part of an argument that the federal government won’t be able to claim that specific racialized communities, like the Black population, are adequately represented in the federal public service if it doesn’t have precise counts of those populations in the first place.

“I think there’s something that has to be adjusted, whether it be on the intake side … or on the analysis side,” Betty said. “Even if it’s a matter of …‘We recognize that there may be 50,000 Blacks that may not have been counted, and therefore, as we’re planning our policy decisions, we’re going to take that number into account.’”

Statistics Canada says it’s an issue the agency is actively studying.

“I know there’s an appetite to have more information,” said Hélène Maheux, a senior analyst with the agency’s diversity and socio-cultural statistics department. “Right now, we are looking at different alternatives, providing more disaggregated information for the multiple visible minority (category) for the 2021 census.”

Part of the problem is that counting a single individual as part of several populations muddies the data. There are also some who would prefer to be identified as a combination of groups instead of being counted as part of separate populations, the Star has previously reported.

But another reason, Maheux says, is that Statistics Canada’s database doesn’t actually allow for more detailed analysis of census data.

“It is not possible to distinguish all the various combinations of the visible minority groups included inside the multiple visible minorities. I had this challenge when I was doing this analysis. I wanted to include them, but it wasn’t possible because the database was not processed in a way that allowed me to make that distinction.”

When the Star asked Statistics Canada to provide, as one example, data on the number of Black people who were included in the multiple visible minority count, the department said the information was not “readily” available. The only way to obtain the data would be through the creation of a “custom tabulation,” which would need to go through a writing, testing and verification process.

Maheux said in the past, analysts have not typically received requests to dig into the category.

“But with the current context, we are receiving more requests. We are looking at avenues to improve our database,” she said.

It’s not just Statistics Canada that knows changes must be made.

On Tuesday, Ottawa launched a 13-member task force set to modernize the Employment Equity Act, which was first introduced in 1986, to improve “the state of equity, diversity and inclusion in federally regulated workplaces.”

Among the issues the task force will examine is whether visible minority groups should be updated, expanded or redefined.

Any changes would directly impact the way Canada’s census poses questions about race; the purpose of asking people to identify with certain population groups is tied to the act, which necessitates collecting information about visible minorities.

Liberal MP Greg Fergus said the work the task force is undertaking is critical to changing how Canada thinks about race. He hopes it will lead to a better snapshot of what’s really happening on the ground.

“For the Black community, it’s very clear that when Blacks are lumped into a visible minority, we actually end up becoming invisible,” Fergus told reporters following the announcement.

Adelle Blackett, a McGill University law professor who chairs the task force, said there have long been warning signs that the way racialized groups are categorized could lead to valuable data being lost.

She cited the 1984 Equality in Employment commission led by Judge Rosalie Abella, who wrote in her final report that combining “all non-whites together as visible minorities … may deflect attention from where the problems are greatest.”

The task force plans to conclude its review and present its recommendations to the federal labour minister in early 2022.

Source: Does Canada’s census undercount visible minorities?

Black Canadians more likely to be hesitant about COVID-19 vaccines, survey suggests

Not just governments but governments do have a role in reducing economic barriers to vaccination (paid time off work etc). Access has become less of an issue given pop-up and other clinics, compared to earlier periods when it was more significant:

Black Canadian leaders say governments must do more to help overcome vaccine hesitancy in their communities.

Toronto orthopedic surgeon Dr. Ato Sekyi-Otu, leader of the health-care task force of the Black Opportunity Fund, says a new survey confirms unpublished public health data that hesitancy is higher among Black Canadians than among white or non-Black racialized people.

“There’s a 20-point gap with respect to the rate of vaccination in Black Canadians compared to the Canadian average,” Sekyi-Otu said in an interview. “When you look at vaccine confidence, unvaccinated Black Canadians are least likely to say that they’ll definitely get the vaccine.”

Sekyi-Otu said the Black Opportunity Fund partnered with the African Canadian Civic Engagement Council and the Innovative Research Group to try to understand why Black Canadians appeared to be getting vaccinated in lower numbers.

The survey found that as of early June, when more than 60 per cent of Canadians had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, 45 per cent of Black Canadians surveyed said they were at least partially vaccinated, compared with 65 per cent of white Canadians and 43 per cent of non-Black visible minorities.

Sixty per cent of Black Canadians surveyed who didn’t have at least one dose expressed some level of hesitancy to get vaccinated, compared with 55 per cent of white Canadians and 44 per cent of non-Black visible minorities.

The figures are in line with vaccination data in Toronto, where the neighbourhoods with the lowest vaccination rates also have some of the largest Black populations.

Dunia Nur, president of the African Canadian Civic Engagement Counsel based in Edmonton, said addressing hesitancy in Black communities will require “a variety of policy shifts” from government that take into consideration language needs, as well as differences in education and socio-economic disparities.

“These include investing in strategies that work with Black-led and Black-focused community organizations to address COVID-19 vaccine knowledge gaps and related trust barriers,” Nur said in a statement.

Black Canadians responding to the survey were less likely to be hesitant about vaccines if they trusted their health-care providers and the vaccine makers, could take paid time off work to get vaccinated, and were confident in where and how to go about getting a shot.

“When we talk about hesitancy, we speak about the ABCs,” said Sekyi-Otu. “I’m talking about access, belief and confidence.”

He said access is affected when Black Canadians are more likely to work in jobs where taking paid time away to be vaccinated is difficult or impossible. Belief in the vaccines can be eroded if you don’t trust the people providing the information about them, and confidence that the vaccines work is harmed when people who are already less trusting of the health-care system get mixed messages about vaccine safety and effectiveness.

“It’s not surprising that if someone has a bad experience with one institution, for example, criminal justice, when he or she is 19 years old, he or she may not want to take the vaccine in 2021 when he or she is 45 years old,” he said.

Sekyi-Oto says governments need to ensure that people can take time off work to be vaccinated and take immediate steps to provide culturally sensitive and appropriate delivery and education about vaccines in Black communities.

“You have to build a system where the people who are leading the system look like the people using the system,” he said. “And so we want to create a culturally sensitive system, engage with the community so that they can come up and take the vaccine.”

The survey is being released as the Public Health Agency of Canada reports new data showing COVID-19 death rates in the first eight months of the pandemic were highest in communities with lower incomes and higher visible minority populations.

The data is the latest report from the agency that outlines the inequities surrounding COVID-19 in Canada.

Source: Black Canadians more likely to be hesitant about COVID-19 vaccines, survey suggests

Why doctors want Canada to collect better data on Black maternal health

Need this for many groups:

A growing body of data about the heightened risks faced by Black women in the U.K. and U.S. during pregnancy has highlighted the failings of Canada’s colour-blind approach to health care, according to Black health professionals and patients.

Black women in the U.K. and U.S. are four times more likely to die in pregnancy or childbirth than white women, according to official data. A recent U.K. study published in The Lancet found that Black women’s risk of miscarriage is 40 per cent higher than white women’s. In Canada, that level of demographic tracking isn’t available.

“For our country, we don’t have that data. So it’s difficult to know exactly what we’re dealing with,” said Dr. Modupe Tunde-Byass, a Toronto obstetrician-gynecologist, and president of Black Physicians of Canada. “We can only extrapolate from other countries.”

Source: Why doctors want Canada to collect better data on Black maternal health

Canada does not have a Juneteenth celebration — and we don’t need one

Good reminder of the differences between Canada and the USA:

After the murder of George Floyd was captured and shared around the world last summer, many white communities found themselves thrust into what can best be defined as the Great White Awakening.

Prior to the killing of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many other Black victims also lost their lives to state-sponsored violence in 2020. But the eight-minute-and-46-second video of Floyd’s demise became the catalyst for a deluge of corporate and political anti-racism declarations.

The actual follow-through on those declarations has been largely inconsistent, but organizations and governments alike are still trying to find ways to appeal to the Black community. In North America, one publicized aspect of the outreach has been the institution of federal holidays to commemorate important dates in national (Black) history.

Source: Canada does not have a Juneteenth celebration — and we don’t need one

Action needed to end anti-Black racism in public service: advocates

As you may recall, I have analysed both the overall numbers (What new disaggregated data tells us about federal public service …) and the hiring and promotions data (Diversity and inclusion: public service hirings, promotions and separations) which show that:
 
“Black Canadians are the visible minority group with the strongest numbers in the public service compared to their share of the citizen population, but their representation is overwhelmingly in the two administrative categories. This is not unique – there is significant under-representation among Latin American, Chinese, Filipino and South East Asian groups in the executive ranks of the public service. A similar general pattern can be found with Indigenous public service representation.”
 
Striking how the advocates do not appear to be aware of the availability of this data (its posted on open data).
 
Even stranger is PSAC not acknowledging that disaggregated data exists as they surely should know that it does (“He said the current data collected by the government only allow people to self-identify as visible minorities, so it’s not clear how many Black employees are working in each level of the public service.”
 
An earlier study I did regarding the use of non-advertised processes showed little impact on hiring diversity (much to my surprise), ‘Non-advertising’ hiring up due to feds’ new appointments policy, data shows:
 
…the shift towards non-advertised staffing processes does not appear to affect the ongoing trends towards increased representation of women and visible minorities and to a lesser extent, Indigenous peoples. The slight decline in representation of persons with disabilities cannot be attributed to the new appointment policy, given that there was no shift towards non-advertised process that involved persons with disabilities.”
 
As we have evidence, albeit imperfect, advocates and their allies need to use and understand the disaggregated date rather than relying on anecdotes or previous data gaps:

The federal government must address anti-Black racism in the public service by implementing timely changes to staffing processes and effective training programs for public servants, not by long-term promises, advocates say.

The Liberals pledged in the 2021 budget to make changes to the Public Service Employment Act that aim to promote a more diverse and inclusive workforce and to spend $285 million over five years to collect disaggregated data that will help in understanding the experiences of people of colour in Canada.

Nicholas Marcus Thompson, one of 12 current and former Black federal workers who filed in December a proposed class-action lawsuit in Federal Court against the government, said their action is one of the reasons that the government made these promises.

He said it shouldn’t take the government five years to collect disaggregated data to understand the underrepresentation of Black workers in the upper echelons of the public service and to take down barriers they face.

“The time frame is very long and Black workers continue to suffer and show up to work injured every day,” he said.

“There’s a lot of mental health issues associated with the discrimination, the systemic discrimination, that Black workers have faced and continue to face — a lot of racial trauma that Black workers are facing.”

The plaintiffs are alleging systemic discrimination in how the federal government has hired and promoted thousands of public servants for nearly half a century.

“There’s a glass ceiling at the bottom of the public service for Black workers, and the top of the public service is reserved for white folks,” he said.

None of the allegations has been tested in court. The plaintiffs are waiting for a certification hearing scheduled for June.

Treasury Board spokesperson Martin Potvin said it’s premature to comment on the lawsuit, but the government will consider all options, including alternative dispute resolution, as it seeks to address the concerns raised.

The national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada said anti-Black racism in the federal public service is widespread.

Chris Aylward said there’s limited opportunities for career growth or advancement due to systemic exclusion of Black employees.

“Canada’s public service represents itself as merit-based, inclusive and non-partisan but ongoing systemic discrimination and racism basically show that this is not the reality,” he said.

“There’s no doubt in my mind about that and it’s not specific to any one department or agency. I think it’s government-wide.”

He said the current data collected by the government only allow people to self-identify as visible minorities, so it’s not clear how many Black employees are working in each level of the public service.

“We believe (the disaggregated data) is crucial to understanding the disparities for specific marginalized communities in Canada, and in particular the Black community,” he said.

Potvin of the Treasury Board said more work is needed to eliminate bias, barriers and discrimination in the public service.

“We must take deliberate and continual steps to remove systemic discrimination from our institutions and from our culture,” Potvin said in a statement.

Norma Domey, executive vice-president of the Professional Institute of Public Service of Canada, said she is the first Black executive in her institute’s 100-year history.

“It’s heavy on me to try to push the envelope for our folks and push diversity, and it just makes my job harder,” she said.

Domey said staffing process in the public service is not transparent, and there’s limited recourse provided to candidates that makes it very difficult for them to challenge the system.

She said non-advertised appointments have dramatically increased to 60 per cent in 2020 compared to 29 per cent of all appointments in 2016.

Black employees fear retaliation if they challenge the process, she said.

“It’s the excessive use of non-advertised processes that add to the exclusion to the (marginalized) groups and given the demographics and the biases of hiring managers, it ends up being a huge disadvantage to folks like ourselves,” she said.

Domey said her institution was initially consulted on possible changes to the Public Service Employment Act, but it’s still unclear what changes to the act the government is considering.

“We’re hoping there’s going to be some progress on this whole staffing process, and the revamp of the Public Service Employment Act,” she said.

Potvin of the Treasury Board said information about the changes the government will propose to the act will be made available once legislation has been introduced in Parliament.

Thompson said the government should create a separate category for Black workers under the Employment Equity Act in order to guarantee better representation in the public service.

He said Black people are currently considered a part of the visible minority group.

“What we’ve seen is that they’ve consistently picked one or two groups from the entire visible minority category, (so) they meet (the requirements of) the Employment Equity Act,” he said.

Aylward of the Public Service Alliance of Canada also said federal departments meet the act requirements by hiring non-Black people of colour.

“They say ‘Oh, we’re on target. We’ve met our quota,’ kind of thing. And that’s simply not right,” he said.

He said a complete review of the Public Service Employment Act and the Employment Equity Act has to happen at the same time.

Domey said there also is a need for more bias-awareness training in the public service.

“People don’t even recognize when they’re being racist, so there’s something wrong with that picture,” she said.

She said the training courses need to be ongoing and entrenched into the public servants’ day-to-day activities.

“I hope it’s not just, ‘Oh, I’ve done my presentation. I’m the champion for diversity. Now, I can tick off that box and get my bonus.’ “

Source: Action needed to end anti-Black racism in public service: advocates

Liberals pledge $300 million to support Black-led community organizations in 2021 federal budget

Of note:

The federal government plans to put $300 million forward to support Black-led charitable organizations in 2021-22.

“We know the pandemic has exacerbated systemic barriers faced by racialized Canadians,” finance minister Chrystia Freeland said in her budget announcement Monday.

The budget proposes $200 million to endow a philanthropic fund dedicated to supporting Black-led charities and organizations serving youth and social initiatives.

As well as $100 million for the “Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative.”

Both of which will be administered through Employment and Social Development Canada for the 2021-22 year.

Freeland also announced additional funding for the existing Black entrepreneurship fund.

The Foundation for Black Communities put the proposal forward for an endowment to be written into the 2021 budget.

“This investment will allow for the financial infrastructure to ensure Black communities have long-term, self-directed and self-sustaining resources,” said Rebecca Darwent, a co-steering member of the Foundation for Black Communities. Darwent added that endowing the organization would ensure funding is sustained regardless of changing priorities of future governments.

In a report released at the end of last year, it found that for every $100 of grant funding dispensed by Canada’s leading philanthropic foundations, only 30 cents go to Black community organizations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately impacted Black Canadians, and the Foundation for Black Communities has said that Black-led community organizations will be crucial to the response.

“The aftershocks of COVID over the next five to 10 years are what we as a community have to prepare ourselves for,” co-founder Liban Abokor previously told the Star.

Source: Liberals pledge $300 million to support Black-led community organizations in 2021 federal budget

Foundation for Black Communities seeks $200 million from federal budget to support Black-led charities

Interesting. During the Conservatives Community Historical Recognition Program, Canadian Ukrainians argued successfully for a World War 1 internment endowment, but for $10 million.

Their main argument was to provide greater flexibility in responding to proposals, which largely has been born out with reasonably transparency on the projects funded. It was easier for the government to agree, given that the Ukrainian Canadian community had an established foundation, the Taras Shevchenko Founcation, with a track record and established governance structures.

But $200m is a big ask:

Eugenia Addy remembers what it was like as a young Black girl in Toronto’s The East Mall, trying to envision her future.

“I grew up in one of the communities that we do work in, and really not being able to see myself represented anywhere on TV [or] in my textbooks,” Addy said. “So to really believe that I could be a scientist or an engineer was something that I literally had to dream about, because I couldn’t see it in reality.”

While pursuing her PhD in chemistry, she met Francis Jeffers, the founder of Visions of Science, an organization that brings interactive science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) programming to kids in marginalized communities. Now as the CEO, Addy aims to open doors for others like her.

Umoja operates with just three staff members and a dedicated team of volunteers. Munyezamu says the organization is struggling financially to keep up with so many responsibilities.

“One thing I do every day is fundraising, fundraising, fundraising. Every month. We don’t know where we’re going to get the money for next month,” said Munyezamu.

Source: Foundation for Black Communities seeks $200 million from federal budget to support Black-led charities

Canada must formally apologize for its historic role in the enslavement of Africans in this country and acknowledge the contributions of Black Canadians

From one of the more prominent plaintiffs in the proposed class action lawsuit against the Canadian government for past and current discrimination.

Question the need for a separate category under the Employment Equity Act for Black Canadians, given that the disaggregated data already includes Black Canadians, and government employment equity reports are now including that data.

And, as I have written elsewhere, disaggregated government employment and public service survey data highlights the similarities and differences between the different visible minority groups (https://multiculturalmeanderings.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=48735&action=edit), with some groups being comparable to Black Canadians, others doing better.

Hopefully, the federally regulated sectors will start to collect comparable disaggregated data, as agree this would be helpful. But it should be collected for all visible minority groups, not just Black Canadians:

American civil rights activist James Baldwin once asked, “how much time do you want for your ‘progress.’ ” Canadian Black politicians, leaders, professors, civil rights activists, and associations have for years called upon Canada to formally apologize for its role in the enslavement of Africans in this country. This long-awaited apology would bring about acknowledgment, recognition, and much-needed healing of the effects of slavery still reflected in the treatment and the experiences of Black Canadians. Canada’s long overdue apology for the treatment of the No. 2 Construction Battalion and recognition of Emancipation Day are not enough.

For too long, Black Canadians have been fighting anti-Black racism symptoms by calling for changes in the criminal justice system, employment, housing, and education sectors. We have also been calling for changes in the same organizations that are meant to bring about equality, specifically amendments to the Employment Equity Act (EEA) to establish a category for Black Canadians, as well as to the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), which is more often than not dismissive of anti-Black racism. As of March 2021, more than 600 former and current Black public service employees are suing the federal government over the unjust practice of Black employee exclusion due to systemic discrimination dating back from the 1970s. More than 12,000 Canadians have signed a petition calling on Justin Trudeau and the Government of Canada to end systemic discrimination and Black employee exclusion within the federal public service.

Black Canadians lack capital power and political representation; thus, our calls for change are dismissed and our demands shoved for another day, promises of change are never realized. The Canadian government itself practices discrimination against Black Canadians and is thus unwilling to force change. In addition to the above mentioned lawsuit by Black government of Canada employees, Canada has officially apologized to several indigenous peoples, apologized over the Chinese head tax, and for sending Japanese-Canadians to internment camps during the Second World War. The government has also rightly apologized for its discrimination, criminalization, and the injustices endured by the Canadian LGBTQ community members. Yet, Black Canadians are still awaiting such turning points and are disheartened to repeatedly ask a prime minister who himself repeatedly wore a Black face and contributed to our dehumanization. So, long as the Canadian government discriminates, it cannot in good faith and with the same breath implement equal rights and progress.

In a 2019 survey, the Canada Race Relations Foundation found that Black Canadians and Indigenous peoples are the most likely groups to report racial discrimination experiences, and they are also the groups widely understood by others to experience such treatment.

The government is aware of the pervasive nature of anti-Black racism in Canada. In 2017, the federal government invited the United Nations Human Rights Council working group of experts on people of African descent to examine the legal, institutional and policy framework and measures taken to prevent racial discrimination and related intolerance faced by Black Canadians. While acknowledging Canada’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, the UN expressed deep concern about Black Canadians’ human rights situation.

It noted that Black Canadians faced disproportionately high unemployment rates and forced to take low-paying jobs with little security and poor prospects when working. The UN cited the multiple and intersectional forms of racism at play against Black Canadian women who make 37 per cent less than white men, and 15 per cent are less than white women, with over one in four living below the Canadian poverty line. The UN working group recommendations included that Canada recognizes Black Canadians as a distinct group who continue to make profound economic, political, cultural and spiritual contributions to Canada. Additionally, it proposed a mandatory nationwide policy on collecting data disaggregated by race and other identities to determine if and when racial disparities exist for Black Canadians. Furthermore, it remarked that the category of “visible minority” obscures the degrees of disparities in Black Canadians’ treatment and specific human rights concerns.

In January 2018, Canada officially recognized the UN International Decade for People of African Descent, stipulating that the international community acknowledges that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights must be promoted and protected. It also calls for adoption or strengthening of comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation and ensuring its effective implementation.

Amid COVID-19, Statistics Canada indicated that the pandemic had hard-hit Canada’s Black population (approximately one million people aged 15 to 69). Data revealed that in the three months ending in January 2021, the unemployment rate among Black Canadians (13.1 per cent) was about 70 per cent higher than that among non-visible minority Canadians (7.7 per cent). Additionally, almost one-third of employed Black women (31.7 per cent) worked in health care and social assistance in January 2021, bearing the brunt of response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Groundbreaking research by the Edmonton-based African Canadian Civic Engagement Council and Innovative Research Group unveiled how COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting the health and finances of Black Canadians. It showed that Black communities are experiencing layoffs, reduced work hours, and reduced household incomes at higher rates. Fifty-six percent of Black respondents said their job, or the job of someone they knew, had been affected, compared with the national average of 46 per cent.

The government’s ongoing initiatives and resources to address systemic racism and anti-Black racism in Canadian institutions and the privately regulated sectors are welcomed. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Bardish Chagger, minister of diversity and inclusion and youth, acknowledge that racism is one of the root causes of social and economic gaps for Indigenous peoples. The more recent 2021 Privy Council call to action to deputy ministers, heads of separate agencies, and heads of federal agencies to reflect deeply on the unjust treatment of Black people and other racialized groups and Indigenous peoples is helpful. It is encouraging that the Privy Council statements distinctly recognized and named Black Canadians in its call to eradicate systemic racism and appropriately used the words racialized communities rather than visible minorities and Indigenous Canadians, rather than aboriginal peoples. This is in stark contrast to the outdated federal legalization meant to eradicate systemic racism and take positive measures towards employment equity in the federal government and federally regulated private sectors, namely the EEA. The Federal Black Employee Caucus (FBEC), established in 2018 to support efforts to address issues faced by Black federal public servants, is also a positive development in the governments’ efforts towards engaging Black employees and learning about their first-hand experiences with systemic racism as it relates to barriers to career to advancements.

The Employment Equity Act requires that federal jurisdiction employers take proactive measures to measure progress on the programs it puts in place. The Public Service Commission (PSC) collects and analyzes hiring, promotion, selection process, survey response and other data for these designated groups. In its January of 2021 audit report on employment equity representation in recruitment, the Commission found that the representation rate of visible minority groups declined at the organizational screening and assessment stages. Of the visible minority sub-groups examined in the audit, Black candidates experienced a more significant drop in representation than other visible minority groups, both at the organizational screening stage and at the assessment stage. Additionally, according to the Federal Black Employee Caucus (FBEC), Black people encounter more significant challenges and obstacles than their mainstream counterparts in their efforts to be recruited and promoted in the federal public service.  The FBEC further state that Black federal employees report above-average levels of harassment and discrimination and are over-represented in the lower ranks. They note ongoing marginalization and underemployment affect the health of some Black employees and force others to leave the public service and that current and former diversity initiatives aren’t solving the problem. The FBEC called on the government to collect disaggregated data on the experiences of the Black public servant and noted that the currently visible minority category masks the representation, recruitment and advancement challenges of Black people. The collection and analysis of disaggregated data have also been made by Liberal MP Greg Fergus, the Canadian caucus of Black Parliamentarians’ chair.

Where is the political will for real change?

In a missed opportunity, in November of 2020, the government passed amendments to the Employment Equity Regulations under the EEA and introduced new pay transparency requirements that came into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. Had there been a prioritization of anti-Black systemic racism and its painful impact on the Canadian Black populations, indeed, the government could have enacted the above recommendations.

As former senator Donald Oliver outlined, the legislation can be amended in two weeks, should the government so wills. As such, the minister of labour is encouraged to consider the Canadian Black population as a separate and distinct group within the EEA and take immediate steps to collect disaggregated data along racial and intersectional identities to understand African Canadians’ experiences in the labour market and associated human rights concerns. Future amendments to the Act should also include a robust accountability model akin to the Canadian Official Languages Act. Under OLA the duty of each federal institution to take positive measures is enforceable. This means that the public and the commissioner of official languages may seek court remedies if they feel that the duty under Part VII of the act has not been met.

Profound demands for justice have been enlisted following the tragic murder of George Floyd, which sparks international demands for justice, and equality including in Canada. This will continue until measurable progress is achieved and history shall keep recording. With COVID-19’s devastating impact on Black Canadians, their families, children, and communities, the time to act and take measurable action is now.

Huda Mukbil is a national security expert and a former senior intelligence officer with Canadian Intelligence Service (CSIS).

Source: https://hilltimes.us10.list-manage.com/track/click?u=a90bfb63c26a30f02131a677b&id=64bcc7c44b&e=685e94e554

York school board releases its strategy to combat anti-Black racism and end a culture of low expectations and ‘throwaway kids’

Will be interesting to assess the impact on student outcomes in a number of years and what measures were particularly effective:

It’s the stories. It’s the stories that sit within, and heave out come time to seek justice, that make a difference. 

Stories that have been discounted for centuries, but have become unignorable since decades of data — statistical, academic and visual — have rapidly piled up. Today only the most wilfully ignorant would deny the existence of deeply rooted anti-Black racism — itself a term coined by Ryerson social work professor Akua Benjamin.

It’s those stories, the experiences of Black families in the school system, that sit at the root of a report by the York Region District School Board (YRDSB) being released Monday.

The two-part Dismantling Anti-Black Racism Strategy is a five-year strategic plan built in collaboration with staff, parents, trustees, community organization and students. In all, about 800 people contributed to the creation of the strategy, which the YRDSB calls the first of its kind by a Canadian school board.

While many boards have equity plans and activities on anti-Black racism,“the power of this (strategy) is making sure there’s some coherence to those activities,” said Tana Turner, an adjunct professor in the faculty of education at York University, who authored it. It builds on the board’s existing equity plans and spells out priorities, action items and an accountability framework.

That last point is urgent. It is also where community skepticism resides. It’s easy for leaders to sign on to anti-racist ideas. The racist barriers are usually erected when it comes to carrying them out. No surprise, then, that everyone who was involved in the creation of this report cited bold leadership as the No. 1 step to accountability. 

“The leadership has to be truly on board, understand what’s at stake and has to lead by example,” said Claudette Rutherford, a parent and teacher at the board. “Are you championing for racial justice when nobody is looking?” 

Two years ago, Rutherford put out an email to parents of Black children, saying, “If you’re worried about your kids in this system, let’s talk.” It was an emotional meeting. They had their own stories, they heard others’.

A desire to take the discussions beyond venting led to her co-founding Parents of Black Children (PoBC) with Charline Grant and Kearie Daniel, both known firebrands. They found strong, talented teachers — Black and non-Black — who said they were too afraid to put their names as board members, that they worried about the repercussions for their careers. 

“I understand it, no judgment,” Rutherford said. But it made the co-founders wonder: “Who is going to put themselves on the line for our children? Nobody but the mothers, right? It sits deep within me.” 

Turner said this lack of safety for anti-racist teachers is true across school boards. In her decades of doing equity and census audits in Ontario school boards and public sector organizations, she found, “In a lot of these boards, it’s safer to be racist than to be anti-racist. You can lose your job for sticking up for Black children.”

In school, teachers are the most important contributors to student achievement. But what to do if they themselves are biased or racially illiterate? When studies show they are more likely to read Black faces as angry even when they’re not, Black boys’ misbehaviours as more hostile than those of white boys, Black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers? 

Parents echoed what has been said in other boards. “Teachers look through Black students,” is one quote in the report. They said their children were seen as “throwaway kids” not worthy of being taught. 

When one of Rutherford’s children had applied for an academic course, she received an email from staff at the new school (who had never met him) saying they were worried he couldn’t manage. “I had to get his white principal to write a note on my behalf.”

Consultants heard Black children were called the N-word as early as in Grade 1, or slaves by classmates because their teachers had singularly focused on slavery during Black History Month while ignoring contributions of Black Canadians. 

Equally troublesome was that teachers and principals often treated these situations as interpersonal conflicts, holding both children culpable if the Black child responded verbally or physically. 

This is why one of the action plans is for the board to increase the racial literacy of all staff and students, create a protocol to help them identify racist and other inappropriate acts, and guide them with steps that students, parents and staff can take to have them addressed. “We need to equip teachers and make a difference in those classrooms,” Turner said. 

The Parents of Black Children group is separately collecting these experiences from staff, which Rutherford says will be analyzed by a volunteer researcher. 

At the board, a major part of the accountability process is bringing community eyes on the process, with plans to give the steering committee regular updates on how the strategy is being implemented. Strategies are to be adjusted based on their feedback and response to data being collected.

“What was excellent about this whole process is you had various Black community members and organizations working together, speaking about the problems and wanting to be part of the solution, to be part of the change,” said Elizabeth Turner, York school board trustee and one of the 22 working-group members who helped develop the strategy.

“This framework is designed to hold the YRDSB accountable not only for implementing the actions … but also for creating better outcomes for Black students,” the report says.

These include better academic outcomes and greater well-being of Black students in learning environments that not only protect them from the trauma of anti-Black racism but also affirm their identities. 

“The issue of Black underachievement is the most pervasive and unacknowledged in the education system,” said Cecil Roach, a superintendent of equity at the board. “You can’t have 50 years of Black kids not graduating at the same level as everyone else.”

The trouble is how to convince the naysayers? Naysayers are often not people who say anti-Black racism doesn’t exist. They’re ones who look at the disparities of student outcomes and blame Black students and their families for it. Up to a point, this can be blamed on racial illiteracy. Beyond that it’s about racist attitudes towards Black people. 

“If you don’t understand the system, you’re blaming the marginalized people for their marginalization,” Turner said. “These teachers haven’t been taught. They don’t know.”

Roach, too, insists on optimism on that score. “Teachers want to do well by kids as long as we give the proper intervention.”

Not that he has a choice. Other than hoping interventions move people to see the light, what hope of change can anyone have? 

Consultations with the York school community showed that even cheerful events can deepen Black students’ isolation. On Crazy Hair Day, for instance, “It’s white kids putting their hair in braids, using baubles Black kids put in their hair … and you’re calling them crazy?” Turner said. Or the only Black kid in class gets left out on Twin Day.

In addition there is the well-known fact of criminalization of children, the so-called school-to-prison pipeline. “For many students, school discipline can lead to their first contact with the criminal justice system,” the report reads. Kids who drop out are eight times more likely to be incarcerated than a youth who has graduated from high school. 

Rutherford remembers once receiving sensitive information about a Black family going through a transition after the father lost his job. Another educator heard the same story and called in Children’s Aid. Why?

Rutherford sees other supports that could have been put in place. Maybe the school could have called the father and offered to get housing. “What is it about Black families that makes you want to penalize rather than support?” she asked. 

If he had to choose just one outcome, Roach would want to see Black graduation rates shoot up. “I want to see Black kids at age 16 have 16 credits.” But that’s not a goal that can operate in isolation, he said. 

“We already know what to do. The question is do we want to do it? It’s one thing to accept the disparity is there. It’s another thing to care about it.”

It’s a given that supporting the most marginalized students supports all students. 

“Ultimately we want an education where our kids flourish,” Rutherford said. “We want our children to feel nurtured and welcome and deserving of safe educational spaces. We don’t want more than what other parents want. Our children deserve that.”

Source: https://www.thestar.com/opinion/star-columnists/2021/03/08/york-school-board-releases-its-strategy-to-combat-anti-black-racism-and-end-a-culture-of-low-expectations-and-throwaway-kids.html

Confronting racial bias in government funding

Hard to balance these calls for greater flexibility and unrestricted funding with long-standing government accountability requirements:

The federal government has proclaimed itself committed to the pursuit of diversity, equity and inclusion. The 2020 Treasury Board directive calls for an “equitable, diverse and inclusive workplace where no person is denied employment opportunities or benefits for reasons unrelated to ability or job requirements.” The federal budgeting process is supposed to use GBA+ analysis in decision-making. And yet, the government continues to ignore the entanglement of race in the organizations they fund. This has only served to disadvantage Black-focused, Black-led, and Black-serving (B3’s) organizations.

Recently, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), launched the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative (SBCCI) – a capacity-building funding program. B3’s from all regions of Canada, outside of Quebec, submitted applications in the desperate hope of securing funding. You see, the funding apparatus in Canada, including the philanthropic sector, leaves Black-led organizations and groups that serve primarily Black communities without support to operate at their full potential. A recent report by the Foundation for Black Communities outlined the “miniscule” amount of funding provided to B3s, and how that funding is “sporadic, unsustained, and does not invest in the long-term capabilities of Black community organizations.”

And so when an initiative emerges that lays claim to building the capacity of B3’s, there is a collective hallelujah throughout Black communities. However, for many applicants to the new ESDC funding program, shouts of hallelujah quickly turned into groans of frustration. Organizations such as Black Lives Matter, the Somali Center for Family Services in Ottawa, and Operation Black Vote Canada, disclosed through various media channels that they received emails from ESDC rejecting their applications for funding because “information provided…was insufficient to clearly demonstrate that the organization is led and governed by people who self-identify as Black.”

The grant application required all applicants to “describe the extent your organization is Black-led, serving or focused.” The aforementioned organizations and others easily satisfy this criterion (by a glance at their websites) – Black leadership and service to Black communities are at the core of their being.

Social Development Minister Ahmed Hussen responded to the outcry stating that the initial communication sent to organizations like Operation Black Vote Canada was “completely unacceptable” and that his department “has implemented new measures” (details not publicly shared) to ensure such a “mistake” does not reoccur.

Was this a mistake? We will probably never know. What B3’s know with certitude is that when it comes to securing financial support from the government or other funding sources, it’s a vicious cycle. The organizations that tend to get funded are organizations that can demonstrate capacity and effectiveness. But how do organizations increase capacity in the first place? Of the millions of federal dollars in grant money we hear about in the news that are dispersed every year, only a small percentage reach Black communities and B3’s. The federal government should consider this a consequential failure on its part.

Black-focused, Black-led, and Black-serving organizations’ struggle has not been due to a lack of quality programming, ability, innovation, or dedication. They struggle due to a lack of funding and access to resources – funding to increase and strengthen their capacity and unrestricted dollars to operate at their full potential. (Unrestricted funding is not tied to any particular project or initiative, and can be used at the organization’s discretion.) The clientele served by B3’s is the constituency most impacted by injustice, and that regularly navigates multiple systems of oppression.

Further, leaders of B3’s have smaller budgets to work with compared to their white counterparts. Leading these organizations is not merely a job. It is their community. It is their life. And yet, the work they champion remains unfunded and under-resourced.  This leaves the issues and neighbourhoods they advocate for lingering in a perpetual state of community disadvantage.

For many B3’s, their experience with the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiativehas only exacerbated racial inequities and highlighted, yet again, the need for frank conversations about race and funding access.

There are four measurable steps the federal government can take now, to remove the barriers to equitable funding:

  • Explicitly acknowledge that broad change cannot happen without comprehending the reality that the grant-making process still operates in a system of inequity, making the journey to acquiring funding difficult to traverse for B3’s. Things that are not acknowledged remain unchanged.
  • Consult, engage, and convene B3’s in the design of funding programs and disbursement of funding dollars. This ensures an explicit eye toward inclusion and equity.
  • Design funding programs that take into account and provide financial support (e.g. seed funding) to B3’s at distinctly different points in their development.
  • Support B3’s with multi-year, unrestricted funding. This would provide an infusion of resources that would enable B3’s to address the needs prevalent in Black communities in a transformative way; increase organizational capacity and sustainability; and foster transparency and accountability between the government and organizations. This approach also prevents B3’s from being trapped in the annual application cycle.

Federal grant funding access and success are deeply entangled with inequities – stifling the success of B3’s and their ability to drive social change in the communities they serve. Black-focused, Black-led, and Black-serving organizations know that racial disparities matter. The mistakes made in the management of the SBCCI have elevated awareness. This must now lead to deliberate action.

Source: Confronting racial bias in government funding