‘A beautiful community:’ Universities open lounges for Black students

Of note. Not sure that this trend improves social cohesion, inclusion and integration but appears inevitable:

Spaces designated for students from marginalized backgrounds are spreading across Canadian universities, as officials say they are a necessary and overdue response to decades of racism on campus.

Toronto Metropolitan University officially opened a space late last month for students who self-identify as Black.

Cheryl Thompson, an associate professor at the university, said the need for such lounges became increasingly clear following the death of George Floyd, whose 2020 killing by a white Minneapolis Police Department officer sparked protests worldwide.

“Something did shift in 2020 institutionally … when the world witnessed the inhumanity in that George Floyd video,” Thompson said about the Black man who was seen in a video using his last few breaths telling the officer kneeling on his neck, “I can’t breathe.”

“The demands Black students have been making for decades have finally been heard.”

Eboni Morgan, a spokesperson for TMU’s lounge, said the decision to create the room stemmed from a recommendation in a 2020 Anti-Black Racism Campus Climate Review Report that surveyed Black members of the school community. It found they continue to face systemic racism by institutions and their peers.

The lounge — equipped with a kitchen, other facilities and a mural painted by a Black student artist — can fit up to 25 students at a time.

“It’s a beautiful community to watch unfold,” Morgan said. “It’s been loud, exciting and students are constantly in the space.”

Thompson said that in the lounge, “you can let your guard down and have conversations about things you’re going through … like support groups for people who have suffered trauma.”

“One of the reasons why young people struggle with their mental health is because they think they’re the only ones to go through what they’re going through,” she said. “Having these spaces makes you more confident and say, ‘oh, I’m not alone.”

Across the city, York University — Canada’s second-largest — launched a lounge for Black students in January. The University of Winnipeg’s BIPOC lounge for students who are Black, Indigenous and people of colour opened in 2018.

The University of British Columbia launched a space for Black male students last year, said Ainsley Carry, a university spokesperson.

Carry said UBC’s Black Male Initiative, is “believed to be the first-of-its-kind program at a Canadian university,” and was designed to provide “a confidential space on campus for members to connect to other Black male students where they can share their lived experiences.”

She said the pilot program has been well received.

“We recognize there is underrepresentation of the Black population at UBC, and that Black community members may feel isolated or face challenges not experienced by their non-Black peers,” Carry said.

“That is why UBC is taking steps … to help foster a sense of belonging … for Black community members.”

Thompson said TMU has received emails blasting its lounge as “segregationist.”

She dismissed that charge as “foolishness,” arguing such accusations were written by people who had no knowledge of what a system of segregation is.

Thompson said the type of racism Black people experience is different than other marginalized groups

“Anti-Black racism is not dependent on even being Canadian. It has nothing to do with your citizenship.”

Providing students with safe spaces is crucial to fostering their development, she said.

One critic of the lounges is Adaeze Mbalaja, the president of the York Federation of Students. She has accused school administrators of using the spaces to mend reputations tarred by years of underfunding Black student groups.

“This is a trend of performative justice, performative activism by institutions across Canada,” she said.

Mbalaja said that based on her discussions with other Black student associations in the Toronto area, she believed universities were creating spaces for Black students but leaving Black students groups underfunded “to fend for themselves.”

“If you’re going to support Black students, do that in a way that is genuine and in a way that desires to actually uplift and amplify the community.”

Thompson said such criticism was “healthy.”

“Universities, instead of dismissing that, need to really ask themselves, ‘Oh, where are they coming from?’ ‘Maybe we do need to have more open lines of communication.'”

Source: ‘A beautiful community:’ Universities open lounges for Black students

Ottawa’s contract for $200-million fund not transparent, Black business group says

Not a good look:

A prominent Black business group is accusing the federal government of running a rushed and opaque procurement process to administer a $200-million endowment program for Black-led charities and community organizations.

The Liberal government first announced the Black-led Philanthropic Endowment Fund in the 2021 budget, but only put out a request for proposals to run the fund last fall. Groups had until Nov. 25 to apply. The fund is meant to be self-sustaining for at least 10 years and the administrators have access to only $9.5-million of the fund for early operating and granting activities.

One group that applied is the Black Opportunity Fund (BOF), which was started by a coalition of Black executives in 2020 to tackle systemic anti-Black racism in corporate Canada and invest in Black-led organizations and businesses.

BOF is funded through programs with corporate partners, including Toronto-Dominion Bank and Walmart Stores Inc. It does not currently take government funding.

Executive director Craig Wellington said BOF had been one of many groups with whom the government had consulted in designing the philanthropic fund.

He said BOF wrote up a proposal of more than 500 pages to describe in detail how the fund could be used effectively, and had arranged a consortium of partners that included the Toronto Foundation and RockCreek, a global investment firm with $16-billion in assets under management.

He said after the group filed its application in November, it heard nothing until Jan. 27, when it was informed it was not selected for the fund in a short e-mail signed from “Service Canada.”

“We had received no phone calls, no communication, no e-mails, regarding the proposal. Not a question,” Mr. Wellington said.

He said the short timeline – compared with the length of time it usually takes the government to do its due diligence on large procurement processes – suggested to him that Ottawa already had a winner in mind.

“What we are starting to hear is that they’ve already selected the agent,” Mr. Wellington said. “Which would be shocking, because we’re talking about Nov. 25 to a week ago. You’re talking eight weeks total, including the holiday closure. For a $200-million procurement. That is not possible. The government cannot buy computers in six weeks.”

In a letter sent Monday to a group of Liberal ministers that includes Minister of Housing, Diversity and Inclusion Ahmed Hussen, BOF asked for the government to make a detailed account of how it is reviewing and selecting applications. BOF also asked the federal Auditor-General to review the procurement process.

“It was our expectation that the government would undergo a thorough, rigorous and transparent process to select the steward for the fund, particularly in light of recent controversies with respect to other procurement processes,” said the letter signed from BOF board chair Ray Williams, managing director and vice-chairman of National Bank Financial.

One of the most prominent federal initiatives for Black-owned businesses to date is the $160-million Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund, which was slow to roll out funds after it launched in the summer of 2021. A frequent criticism from members of the Black business community has been that the entrepreneurship fund was rushed out the door before it was ready, and not enough due diligence was done in selecting the administrators, which led to poor results.

Brittany-Anne Hendrych, a spokesperson for Mr. Hussen, defended the selection process and said it built on earlier consultations the government had held with Black organizations on the design of the program.

“Let us be clear, all applicants were assessed by officials at Employment and Social Development Canada based on their capacity to deliver on the goals of the endowment fund in a fair, transparent and objective manner,” Ms. Hendrych said in a statement.

She said a fund administrator had indeed been selected and more information would be announced soon.

The Michaëlle Jean Foundation, which was a partner on the BOF application, said it supported the call for more government transparency.

“It is a deep disappointment that the federal government has not had any questions for BOF or its partners with regards to their well-considered and action-oriented proposal for this fund,” executive director Tara Lapointe said in a statement.

Mr. Wellington said he thinks the government is putting optics ahead of its concern for proper spending.

“They’re getting prepared to make an announcement during Black History Month,” he said. “So Black History Month, and making a photo-op or whatever, is more of a priority than a rigorous, transparent process.”

Source: Ottawa’s contract for $200-million fund not transparent, Black business group says

‘A specific form of anti-Black racism:’ Scholars want Canadian apology for slavery

Not unexpected given the growing number of apologies. But as Senator Bernard notes “apology is empty without action.”

The federal government has shifted resources and initiatives towards anti-black racism, both inside and outside government, as have some provinces and parts of the business sector (e.g., BlackNorth Initiative). Legitimate to press for more and faster, based upon an assessment of which approaches are likely to be more effective:

More than a year after Canada proclaimed Aug. 1 as Emancipation Day, Black leaders and scholars are renewing their calls for Ottawa to make a formal apology for the country’s history of slavery and its intergenerational harms.

Author Elise Harding-Davis said Sunday that the federal government’s vote last March to recognize Emancipation Day shows Canadian leaders know that the country’s history of slavery has caused generations of harm to Black people.

To ignore years of calls for a proper apology is “shameful,” she said.

“An apology would mean recognition of the fact that we were enslaved in this country,” Harding-Davis said in an interview. “It would also be an amelioration of the harsh treatment Black people have received and the validation that we have honestly contributed not only to this country, but to the making of this country.”

Emancipation Day recognizes the day in 1834 that the Slavery Abolition Act came into force, thus ending slavery in most British colonies including Canada, and freeing over 800,000 people. Thousands of slaves from Africa were brought against their will to Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, as well as to Lower Canada and Upper Canada, which is now Ontario.

In the colony of New France — which became British territory in the 1760s — the majority of slaves were Indigenous, historians say.

The Slavery Abolition Act freed all enslaved people, including Indigenous people, Harding-Davis said, adding: “A determination to free Black people helped free all people, and that’s huge.”

She said she doesn’t feel most Canadians are even aware of the country’s history of slavery.

“It’s just been sidelined and brushed under the rug as much as possible,” she said. “This anti-racism movement that has happened … in the last10 years, but more focused since George Floyd’s death in the United States, has only highlighted that there’s a small awareness that there’s anything wrong with the treatment of Black people in Canada.”

Dalhousie University history professor Afua Cooper said Sunday that she first asked Ottawa in 2007 to apologize for slavery and its harms. The principal investigator for the Black People’s History of Canada project noted that in the meantime, other groups have received apologies for historical harms.

“There can’t be any other explanation except that this is a specific form of anti-Black racism,” Cooper said in an interview. “Black people are not seen as fully-fledged citizens and it’s the federal government’s way of saying, ‘Too bad.'”

Some will argue that an apology isn’t warranted, she said, since Canada was formed in 1867, more than three decades after slavery ended. But Cooper said that reasoning doesn’t hold up, adding that the country formed in 1867 was built from what it was in the years before.

“And OK, how about apologizing to the Black community for things that happened after 1967?” she asked, pointing to examples including segregation, and a 1911 proposal in government that sought to ban Black immigrants from entering the country.

The last segregated school in Canada — in Lincolnville, N.S. — didn’t close until 1983.

Harding-Davis also doesn’t buy that argument. Black people have been subject to marginalization because of laws and practices that allowed and came from slavery, she said.

“The mindset, the beliefs have been left in place,” she said. “We continue to face prejudice and discrimination and longtime disparities, and the government has really done little to nothing to change that.”

Nova Scotia Sen. Wanda Thomas Bernard said Sunday that it is “absolutely” time for a federal apology for the country’s practice of enslaving Black people and its lasting harms, but she said an apology is empty without action.

The question she is asking Canada after last year’s recognition of Emancipation Day is, “What’s next?”

“There’s such a significant need for education, there is such a significant need for us to create greater awareness, but there’s also a need for us to engage in actions,” she said in an interview.

“We really need more engagement from everyone to move forward to walk this path in a more positive way. We need allies to be more impactful, more committed as they go forward, and not just performing allyship.”

The federal Department of Housing, Diversity and Inclusion did not immediately provide a comment upon request.

Source: ‘A specific form of anti-Black racism:’ Scholars want Canadian apology for slavery

Most Black nurses in Ontario deal with racism. This task force of nurses has a way forward

Of interest:

Nurse practitioner Corsita Garraway still thinks about a patient she had years ago who lost her foot.

She was an older, Black woman who had been in the hospital due to complications with diabetes and developed gangrene. But it went overlooked until the only solution was to amputate.

Gangrene often turns the skin black, but Garraway said others caring for this woman must not have been able to identify it on her dark skin. “People didn’t recognize that the blackness of her foot was a blackness of her foot that shouldn’t have been there,” Garraway told the Star.

She knew something was wrong the moment she walked into the patient’s room because of the smell — the off scent was a signal to her right away that something was amiss. And when she went over and touched her foot gently, the patient screamed.

She can only guess how these three issues — the smell of decaying flesh, the discoloration and the pain — had gone unnoticed for so long.

Garraway was a registered practical nurse at the time so there were certain tasks other degree-holding health-care providers were meant to conduct. She eventually got her master’s degree and is now doing a PhD because she wanted to be able to provide more care for her patients.

After more than 30 years working in nursing, she’s seen anti-Black racism affect both her patients, and nurses.

“I feel like people just don’t always take the time when they see us,” Garraway said.

Now as co-chair of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario’s (RNAO) Black Nurses Task Force, Garraway and a group of 17 Black nurses and students are hoping to bring change to the field in the province.

The task force will release a report of its work so far Tuesday morning, which includes 19 specific recommendations for change in the industry. They’re aimed at post-secondary education, workplace leadership, the province, policy-makers and allies working in the field, to name a few.

The report’s recommendations are backed by a survey of 205 Black nurses and nursing students in Ontario.

About 88 per cent of respondents said they’ve experienced racism or discrimination of some kind in the field.

Almost 63 per cent of Black nurses and nursing students said their mental health was moderately or strongly affected by dealing with systemic discrimination and racial microaggressions.

Among the changes the task force wants to see are mandatory anti-racism education and training for all nurses, more Black nurses on committees and boards, changes in hiring practices, and mentorship and financial support for Black nurses.

“The whiteness of our profession is blinding,” RNAO president Doris Grinspun told the Star, noting that the lack of diversity is especially pronounced the further you move from the bedside to leadership and policy-makers.

“We miss out on the talent, we miss out on the expertise. We all bring expertise that is a mix of what you study and what you live,” Grinspun said. “We miss out as a system, as a society.”

As a white woman, Grinspun has wanted to make sure RNAO is there to provide resources, but that Black nurses take the lead.

Past RNAO president Angela Cooper Brathwaite was brought on as co-chair along with Garraway.

Cooper Brathwaite has spent her long career in Newfoundland, Manitoba and Ontario working as a nurse, midwife, managing departments and teaching in colleges and universities.

But the area where she dealt with the most friction was in teaching.

In her second year of teaching in the ’80s, Cooper Brathwaite said all of her course content disappeared from her filing cabinet days before classes were to start.

When she raised the issue with administration, someone suggested maybe a student took her lesson plans. But Cooper Brathwaite said that wasn’t likely. Students had freely borrowed her notes and returned them and also didn’t have access to her office.

She remembers college administration didn’t spend much time investigating the incident, but she couldn’t shake the thought that one of her colleagues was behind it.

Cooper Brathwaite still teaches part time at Ontario universities, but the experience early on soured her from taking full-time positions when they were offered.

But having Black professors in the field is exactly what kept student Ola Abanta Thomas Obewu on the nursing path.

Thomas Obewu quickly realized bedside nursing wasn’t for her, but seeing no examples of Black women venturing into other areas of the field was discouraging. She thought she’d have a more realistic go of it in medical school.

But then she got a Black nursing instructor. And later, she joined RNAO’s task force and saw more paths she could take as a Black woman in the field.

“I saw researchers, PhD holders, people who were the chief nursing officer in their hospital,” Thomas Obewu said. “Just that connection alone made me realize I could be like those people.”

Source: Most Black nurses in Ontario deal with racism. This task force of nurses has a way forward

New group of African Canadian senators created to amplify Black voices

Of note:

Seven senators have announced the launch of the African Canadian Senate Group, created to ensure Black voices are heard in the upper chamber.

The coalition is chaired by Sen. Rosemary Moodie, and includes senators Wanda Thomas Bernard, Bernadette Clement, Amina Gerba, Mobina Jaffer, Marie-Françoise Mégie and Mohamed-Iqbal Ravalia.

It is a multi-group coalition, comprising members from both the Independent Senators Group and the Progressive Senate Group.

The group said in a statement Thursday it is devoted to fighting racism and discrimination, and engaging with Canadians while advocating for their priorities.

“For too long, our voices, contributions and priorities have been ignored by our democratic institutions,” Moodie said. “As senators of African descent, we are committed to reversing this trend by working together.”

Jaffer said it is important for African Canadian senators to have this space in an institution with a history of not always considering the unique needs and lived experiences of Black people in Canada.

The group’s priorities for Canada’s 44th Parliament will include seeking a “more inclusive committee process” in the Senate, and working together with community members for progress on issues of “justice, health and economic fairness.”

Asked why the group has been formed at this particular moment, Clement said, “Because we’re energized right now,” adding that the beginning of a new session is a good time to let people know the group wants to hear from them.

Bernard said while the group has formally announced its presence to Canadians, members have been working together for years.

“The fact that there are seven of us who are working together who are committed to moving forward with issues of significance to people of African descent in this country, that’s huge. And we’re doing it in non-partisan ways.”

Moodie said the group has an opportunity to raise the voices of African Canadians in the Senate’s work, such as calling on Black witnesses for relevant studies and bills. “We saw that there is a bit of an imbalance in terms of the representation of African Canadians within the committee process.”

A priority for the group will be pressing for detailed data on communities in examining bills, she said. “The fact is that we really can’t understand or measure the impact of the policies that we are putting in place and how they affect African Canadians without looking at this data.”

The group will also be supporting the work of other senators, said Bernard, as with Sen. Kim Pate’s private member’s bill to reform the pardon process by having most criminal records automatically expire when a person has no subsequent charges or convictions.

“We will be quite actively involved and engaged in that work because the issue of record expiry has significant impacts on Canadians of African descent who have been through the criminal justice system,” Bernard said.

Clement noted she is a relatively new senator, having just been sworn in last week, but can identify with the group’s goal on a personal level.

She was the first Black woman to be a mayor in Ontario, serving in the eastern Ontario community of Cornwall.

“I’ve spent a lot of my career feeling lonely in all kinds of spaces,”Clement said. Referring to her colleagues in the newly formed Senate group, she added, “It just feels less lonely for me.”

Source: New group of African Canadian senators created to amplify Black voices

‘Enough is enough’: Black civil servants vow to press on with discrimination suit as Liberals promise change

Update on the proposed class-action lawsuit:

Carol Sip spent three decades inside the federal public service, but her retirement plaque is the last thing she wants to see on her wall.

Instead it sits stored away in the original packaging.

“Why would I hang it up? It will only bring back awful memories,” Sip said. “It should be something that you should be proud of, but I’m not proud of it because I know what I went through.”

Sip is one of a group Black federal employees involved in a proposed class-action lawsuit launched last December against the federal government alleging years of discrimination and seeking some $2.5 billion in damages.

Earlier this year, federal employee Monica Agard broke her silence about being Black in the public service after a senior colleague at the Immigration and Refugee Board’s Toronto office allegedly praised “the good old days when we had slaves.”

Since then, the proposed class-action lawsuit has become one step closer to reality after a motion was filed for it to be certified. It will fall to the newly elected government to decide whether to challenge that.

But as Canadians head to the polls, the Liberals appear to be changing course on the issue with a policy plank promising support for Black workers.

Liberals now promise support for Black workers

The federal government had maintained that its workers could find help through the employee assistance and health-care programs, which the plaintiffs have long said fail to address the specific trauma of anti-Black racism.

Now, if elected, the Liberal Party says in its platform it will “establish a mental health fund for Black public servants, and support career advancement, training, sponsorship, and educational opportunities for Black workers.”

Party spokesperson Alex Wellstead wouldn’t explicitly say if a Liberal government would support certifying the class action to go forward, but acknowledged “Black Canadians face unique challenges when it comes to mental health in the workplace.

“That is why we’ve committed through our platform to work with community partners on the design and establishment of this fund, which directly responds to calls from Black employees in the public service and will ensure that Black public servants are supported.”

As the employer of the federal public service, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat said the courts have not set a timetable for next steps on certifying the suit and that at this stage, it would be “premature” to comment.

Lawyer Hugh Scher, who’s assisting with the suit, hopes whichever party forms government will work with Black civil servants to address their needs.

“If they do, then they will have a willing partner,” he said. “If they don’t, they they will have a worthy adversary in court.”

‘A living nightmare’

Sip’s ordeal began in the early 1980s, shortly after she became an employee at the federal customs department under what is now the Canada Revenue Agency. Over a number of years spent working there, she says she experienced repeated incidents of harassment and discrimination by a supervisor who behaved with impunity.

And she says never in her 26 years was she promoted beyond her clerical position.

“It became a living nightmare,” she told CBC News. Sip filed multiple grievances and won two. But she felt blacklisted for complaining and says nothing was done.

“If they had a project with lifting boxes, only the Black ladies were chosen to lift the boxes,” she recalled.

In the late 90s, Sip was diagnosed with both breast and uterine cancer. She was off work on disability in 1999, when she was told her department was being restructured. Sip says her manager told her to resign. Believing she had no other option, she did.

In a statement, the CRA told CBC News it cannot discuss specific cases but that it is “firmly dedicated to diversity inclusion and anti-racism in the workplace.”

“The CRA has launched, and will launch further, targeted executive staffing processes for visible minorities and Indigenous peoples who are underrepresented at the leadership levels,” the statement said, noting that CRA encourages all employees to come forward if they experience or witness any discrimination or harassment.

As for why she joined the proposed class action, Sip said: “I look at the young children growing up and I don’t want them to go through what I personally went through, or the others have gone through.”

‘It kills you a little bit inside’

It’s been four months since Marcia Banfield Smith left her job at the Department of Justice.

But she says the scars from her time there run deep.

Over the years, she says she endured racist jokes at meetings and watched as non-Black colleagues rose up the ranks. Meanwhile, despite applying for higher-paying roles, she was stuck in a paralegal role at the same pay — for 19 years.

“It kills you a little bit inside,” she said.

Source: ‘Enough is enough’: Black civil servants vow to press on with discrimination suit as Liberals promise change

Return of ‘protected ridings’ sees N.S. riding with full slate of Black candidates

While in general not in favour of “protected riding” or deliberate drawing of borders based upon ethnic ancestry or visible minority or other groups, in some cases like this one can be justified to improve representation.

At the federal level, this largely happens more or less organically for the larger groups given settlement patterns:

In the provincial riding of Preston, just east of Halifax, a historic political race is underway.

“One of the things that’s really important, and I think so many people are talking about, is the fact that all three of us are local in particular and African Nova Scotian,” Liberal candidate Angela Simmonds said of the candidates facing off to represent the riding.

Simmonds, along with NDP candidate Colter Simmonds and Progressive Conservative candidate Archy Beals, make up the slate for the largely African Nova Scotian riding in the Aug. 17 general election. It’s believed to be the first time in the province’s history an electoral district has all Black candidates.

It’s thanks in part to the reinstatement two years ago of Preston, along with three largely Acadian ridings — Argyle, Clare and Richmond. In 2019, the Liberal government introduced legislation to bring back the so-called protected ridings after the previous NDP government did away with them in 2012, saying there were too few voters in them.

With the reinstatement, the province once again has 55 ridings, up from 51 in the last election.

Other provinces have ridings of varying sizes, typically to ensure rural voters are well represented. But Nova Scotia’s protected ridings are unique for the fact that they shield so-called “historical minorities” from redistribution, said James Bickerton, a political science professor at St. Francis Xavier University.

The ridings were initially formed in the 1990s to ensure effective representation of Acadian and African Nova Scotian voters and to protect them from electoral redistribution, “which would dilute the populations considerably to the point where minorities would no longer be the majority within the constituency,” Bickerton said.

He was on the electoral boundaries commission that concluded in 2012 that the ridings should remain. But he said the commission was threatened by then-attorney general Ross Landry, who claimed the recommendation did not respect the commission’s terms of reference.

The movement to reinstate the special districts followed a court victory by the Acadian Federation of Nova Scotia. The province’s Appeal Court ruled that the redrawn map violated democratic rights guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

“Effective representation was at play … the argument being that Francophones and African Nova Scotians could only have effective representation if they had representatives in the legislature from their communities,” Bickerton said. “Protected ridings doesn’t guarantee it, but it certainly makes it much more likely.”

Andrew Griffith, a fellow at the Environics Institute, a public opinion and social research organization, said ridings with large minority populations tend to elect candidates with similar ethnic and cultural backgrounds. He gave the example of Indo-Canadians.

“If you look at a place that has a large Indo-Canadian population, whether immigrants or citizens, the candidates and the MPs tend to come from those communities,” Griffith said. “Having your electoral districts be aligned not only to the overall population balance, but to recognize that some communities may be relatively under-represented because they’re too dispersed across the province or across the country, I think it’s a valid rationale.”

Glenn Graham, a political science professor at St. Francis Xavier University, echoed the sentiment, adding that the goal of the ridings is effective representation, not necessarily absolute voter parity, which is the idea that each vote carries the same weight. Voter parity, however, could also limit the voices of minority voters, he said.

When the latest changes were made in 2019, the four protected ridings had voting populations ranging from 6,451 in Argyle to 10,781 in Preston, well below the provincial average of 14,356 electors per riding.

“With all the major political parties running an African Nova Scotian candidate, it’s a guarantee that there will be an African Nova Scotian representing the area,” Beals said in a recent interview. He added that the area comes with specific cultural issues, including education and business development, of which the candidates have an intimate understanding. “Who best to address them than someone in the community, from the community?” he said.

As for the Acadian ridings, Marie-Claude Rioux, the executive director of the Acadian Federation of Nova Scotia, said in an interview that the change “gives Acadians a better chance to elect someone that will know their needs,” such as French-language health services.

But while the community was glad to see the three Acadian ridings restored, Rioux said the federation plans on fighting for more representation, namely a riding for Cheticamp, an Acadian community in Cape Breton.

Moving toward effective representation, Graham said, is about “having someone that you feel may look like you in the legislature, or is a reflection of your lived experience in the legislature.”

And with the newly reinstated ridings, Angela Simmonds said she now has an opportunity to engage with the constituents of the riding at a more personal level.

“I think when you see someone who looks like you there is an appreciation for one’s lived experiences,” she said.

Source: Return of ‘protected ridings’ sees N.S. riding with full slate of Black candidates

One year after Trudeau took a knee, is his government living up to its anti-racism promises?

Useful review, showing a reasonable yes. The effectiveness, of course, will require some time to assess:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a knee at a Black Lives Matter rally on Parliament Hill over a year ago, after the murder of George Floyd sparked worldwide protests. Some welcomed the action as a commitment to fight anti-Black racism, while others dismissed it as a hollow gesture.

Shortly after that rally, the MPs and senators who make up the Parliamentary Black Caucus issued a letter listing more than 40 calls to action to confront racism. They called on the Trudeau government to go beyond mere “words and symbolic gestures” to tackle the “crisis” Black Canadians face.

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

Source: One year after Trudeau took a knee, is his government living up to its anti-racism promises?

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