Ottawa declines overhaul of hate crime offences

Agree with B’nai Brith that enforcement is the bigger issue, along with the discomfort or reluctance of some to report incidents to the police:

Ottawa says existing Criminal Code offences are adequate to confront a recent surge in hate-fuelled incidents, but the federal government has recommitted to passing a law aimed at improving hate crime prosecutions.

After recent online summits on antisemitism and Islamophobia, the Department of Justice said this week that it wants to ensure hatred is better defined but otherwise has no plans to overhaul the way hate crimes are dealt with in the courts. Suspects are most often charged for a core crime and then prosecutors may argue hate motivation at the end of a trial to secure a heavier sentence.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) released a list of 35 federal recommendations including a call for Ottawa to introduce new provisions in the code to single out hate-motivated assault, murder, threats, and mischief that would include specific new penalties for each infraction. The existing code only singles out three hate propaganda offences and mischief relating to religious or cultural sites.

Nadia Hasan, chief operating officer of the NCCM, said doing this would create a much stronger deterrent for potential criminals as hate crimes have risen in recent years.

“I’m not saying by any means that this alone would eradicate hate crimes for Canada, but it would send a strong message” that hate crimes deserve their own penalties, said Dr. Hasan. Her group also wants the code changed to offer restorative justice measures.

Dr. Hassan said creating a new class of hate crimes would also help victims get better service from front line investigators, some of whom are unfamiliar with Canada’s laws around hate-motivated attacks. The NCCM helped more than 70 hate crimes victims across the country seek justice last year and some of those victims have told her group that police in some jurisdictions routinely discouraged them from filing a hate-related complaint by telling them “it’s not worth it.”

“It happens often enough where we have to fight back and make sure the police are listening and really advocate for the victim,” said Dr. Hasan.

But Ian McLeod, a spokesman for the Department of Justice, said in an e-mailed statement that Canadians are well served by a justice system that prosecutes the existing hate crime offences and then, with other hate-related crimes, has penalties amplified when motivation is factored in at sentencing. However, he said Ottawa is committed to updating the Criminal Code throughBill C-36 to define hate speech as “content that expresses detestation or vilification of a person or group,” including over the Internet, where these comments are common.

Bill C-36, which targeted public hate speech by individuals, did not pass into law after being introduced by the Liberal government at the end of the parliamentary session. If an election is called this summer, as is widely expected, the legislation will no longer move forward.

Mr. McLeod’s statement said Ottawa is also tackling online hate through a proposal to create a new regime to police hateful content on social media sites.

In June, MPs unanimously voted to call the emergency Islamophobia conference following the murder of three generations of a London, Ont., Muslim family by a driver now facing terrorism charges, with the government also announcing the summit on antisemitism.

Statistics Canada also recently released its annual report on crime data showing 2020 brought a 10 per cent overall decrease in cases reported by police across the country, but departments reported a record 2,669 hate crimes cases – a 37 per cent spike from the year prior. Police and criminologists acknowledge hate crimes in general go vastly unreported.

Michael Mostyn, chief executive officer of B’nai Brith Canada, said his organization would rather see the current laws enforced “more diligently” before any new amendments are legislated.

“One of the serious frustrations from a group like B’nai Brith, which is dealing with the victims of hate crimes on a daily basis, is that we don’t see so many of these prosecutions across the country,” he said.

Mohammed Hashim, executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, a Crown corporation, said many different solutions are needed as Canada’s entire criminal justice system is ill-suited to address the scourge of hate crimes.

“It starts from underreporting; to not having confidence in the police dealing with hate crimes adequately; to the number of charges that are laid, or the lack thereof; and the level of seriousness that both attorney generals and prosecutors treat hate-motivated crimes,” he said.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-ottawa-declines-overhaul-of-hate-crime-offences/

Budget funds tackling anti-Asian racism a ‘symbolic’ move, says expert, but foundation’s plans still in flux

Of note (significant for the CRRF as previous governments have not provided such funding if memory serves me correctly):

A “groundbreaking” boost to the Canadian Race Relations Foundation to help address the rise of anti-Asian racism is a welcome and “symbolic” investment, says one expert, but details of how it plans to spend the $11-million remain up in the air.

The federal government’s 2021 budget, tabled on April 19 by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland (University-Rosedale, Ont.), earmarked $11-million for the foundation over two years, starting in 2021-22. Funds are designed to help the Crown corporation “scale up” its capacity and establish a “national coalition to support Asian Canadian communities.” A fund to support “all racialized communities directly impacted” by a spike in racist attacks during the pandemic will also be created, according to the 724-page document.

Mohammed Hashim, executive director of the foundation (CRRF), said the group is currently working on creating an anti-Asian racism strategy that it hopes to launch in the fall.

“We recognize that there is no one Asian community. There are many Asian communities, and we need to be able to work with all of them to make sure we’re doing things that are appropriate within each of those,” said Mr. Hashim. The summer will be filled with “a ton of consultations” with groups doing anti-Asian racism work, which will help inform “what a coalition could look like.”

By the fall, the foundation plans to release its organizational strategy in full, detailing different grant streams that will be available to external groups. Work is still underway internally to determine how much of the funding will be set aside to boost the foundation’s capacity—though Mr. Hashim said a “good portion” will be dedicated to ensuring the corp can “function as a national entity”—and how much will be handed to organizations fighting Asian racism. Membership of such a “coalition” is also still being discussed, he said.

Bill C-30, the government’s budget bill, has not yet passed and is being studied by the House Finance Committee. The Senate Finance Committee also launched a pre-study of the legislation.

Mr. Hashim, who was named to the post for a five-year term last fall, underscored the significance of the boost, noting it’s the first time the Crown corporation has seen money earmarked as a line item in the budget. Typically, the organization has relied on its endowment income and fundraising, but Ottawa’s “groundbreaking” investment will go toward helping it “embolden” its programming, he said.

The foundation, which falls under the portfolio of the Heritage department, “can play a national leadership role in anti-racism efforts,” said Mr. Hashim, adding the allocation signals the government has “confidence” in it to become just that.

Avvy Go, a director with the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic in Toronto (CSALC), agreed it’s a “good thing” that anti-Asian racism has been listed as a budget item for the first time, as it carries “symbolic” weight.

“But my question is whether $11-million is really enough. The Asian community is a very large community,” she said. According to the 2016 census, nearly 1.8 million people of Chinese origin alone live in Canada, amounting to five per cent of the population. For the Asian diaspora, that figure could climb to just under 20 per cent, she predicted. “So maybe $11-million, if we think of it as seed funding, that’s OK. But if that’s the total amount going forward, then we’ll probably fall short in addressing the complexity of the problem,” she said.

While she supports a coalition being formed, Ms. Go said funds need to be directly and quickly shared with groups that have “very strong track records” with members of the community, including hers and the ChineseCanadian National Council for Social Justice (CCNC-SJ).

“These organizations, some are run by volunteers, so if funding stops, some of the work may have to stop,” she said. “So it would be good for the government to continue to support them.”

The CCNC-SJ recently launched a campaign urging the public to “open its eyes” to anti-Asian racism, which includes a two-minute video that can be shared on social media. It features prominent members of the Asian community, like environmental activist David Suzuki, ice skater Patrick Chan, and Ms. Go herself.

Last year, the CCNC-SJ and South Asian Legal Clinic helped launch an online tool encouraging the public to log their experiences of racism. Heritage provided more than $300,000 for the project to help Ottawa in its efforts to tackle false and misleading information, and the racism and stigma that follows.

The grassroots initiative, which also partnered with other national groups, produced  preliminary results, reporting 138 cases between February and May 2020, with the vast majority (110) registered in May. (At the time, officials said the tool would be in place at least into 2021, and it still appears to be active.)

In the council’s final report, released in March, the organization found most of those who used the tool to report incidents felt they were being scapegoated for the pandemic. A total of 643 incidents were logged, 73 per cent of which included verbal harassment, 11 per cent that involved physical aggression or unwanted contact, and 10 per cent that involved being coughed or spat at. The budget frames the $11-million to the CRRF as an investment in recognition of this “especially disturbing trend.”

Keep the door open for more funding, says expert

Ms. Go’s group is among the “important partners” that will be consulted in the summer, said Mr. Hashim. “This is a groundbreaking investment for the organization from the federal government, and I think it’s one that we’re hoping to rise to the challenge to prove the organization deserves long-term funding,” he added.

To help inform its work on the file, Mr. Hashim said the group is hoping to take part in a virtual national summit on anti-Asian racism, organized by the University of British Columbia. (That event is from June 10 to 11, with the first day open to the public and the second day reserved for “sector leaders.”)

Mr. Hashim said he’s well aware that groups have been working on the ground for years. “There’s a lot of community groups that have a lot of interest in this and we don’t want to get ahead of them by saying, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ ” he said. “They are certainly leading the charge and we want to make sure we are working in tandem with them.”

As the foundation works to iron out details for its funding, there appears to still be a gap in the government’s overarching anti-racism strategy, unveiled in June 2019.

Last summer, Ms. Go noted this blueprint does not carve out specific efforts to tackle anti-Asian sentiments, though it does make reference to anti-Black, anti-Indigenous, Islamaphobic, and anti-Semitic discrimination. The recent budget does not outline any new funds for this strategy, but Ms. Go said she hopes “the door is still open.”

Over the last year, her group has been talking about the uptick in reported incidents with the anti-racism secretariat, which was established through the strategy and is headed by Peter Flegel. The feds appear to be working toward a definition of anti-Asian racism, she said, which could help “guide” work under its overall strategy, including the creation of specialized funding streams. “I’m hoping that as these conversations continue, there will still be an opening for the government to think about other streams of funding,” she added.

Ottawa ‘behind the eight ball,’ says Kwan

NDP MP Jenny Kwan (Vancouver East, B.C.) said there are “a lot of unknowns” about how the foundation will spend its money, and pressed Ottawa to step up in a “key area” and directly assign funds to non-government organizations.

“The fact of the matter is, they have the trust and relationships with the people on the ground and they can also break down the cultural and language barriers,” she said. Ms. Kwan, who was born in Hong Kong, said she is worried the money will be project-based or temporary, instead of “dedicated, stable, and predictable funding” for the groups to better tackle anti-Asian racism.

“We can’t expect NGOs to be doing this work off the side of their desk,” said Ms. Kwan, adding she wondered why the feds took the route of providing the foundation with money instead of what “it normally does,” which is dole out funds directly to groups. (The overarching anti-racism strategy falls under Heritage, with the department responsible for evaluating and accepting proposals through its various funding streams.)

While the pandemic has seen a rise in anti-Asian hate and reported incidents, “it’s not like this is new to us,” said Ms. Kwan. “It’s always been here, and it comes and goes in different cycles at different times. Some sort of incident or some sort of interaction might spur some activities,” she added. Ms. Kwan recounted herself being subjected to such incidents, at times hearing the virus being referred to as the “Kwan-avirus.”

“Right from the beginning, this was happening. People were being attacked. So the government’s been talking about it for a year, about how to define anti-Asian racism? And they still haven’t figured it out?” she said. “That makes me want to weep.”

It’s clear the government is “behind the eight ball,” said Ms. Kwan, when anti-Asian racism is not captured in the feds’ overall strategy and it’s still talking about defining it. The timeline of “deliverables” is also up in the air, like when the funds will start flowing from the foundation to the groups.

Former Liberal Senator Vivienne Poy, whose appointment in 1998 made her the first Canadian Senator of Asian ancestry, said the foundation’s funds could go toward outreach efforts to younger Canadians.

“Racism is learned. Nobody is born with it,” said Ms. Poy, who spearheaded a motion designating May as Asian Heritage Month, which was ultimately adopted by the Senate in 2001.

“They can spend hours and hours consulting with whatever group, but the most important thing” is unlearning on the part of perpetrators, said the retired Senator, and helping them “learn about the positive sides of different cultures” to better understand the people they are attacking are Canadians too. “You can’t legislate and pass laws telling people how to behave.”

Source: Budget funds tackling anti-Asian racism a ‘symbolic’ move, says expert, but foundation’s plans still in flux

In the fight against anti-Asian racism, advocates say federal funds a ‘good start,’ but more support needed

As always…:

The head of an organization tasked with combating racism in Canada says the group is building a collaborative strategy to tackle the issue, but some advocates say more government support is needed to directly address the rise of anti-Asian racism.

Mohammed Hashim, executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (CRRF), said a centralized plan is needed to create real change, and that his group will consult directly with community organizations across the country to hear what supports are needed.

April’s federal budget allocated $11-million over two years to the CRRF to combat racism and empower racialized Canadians affected by racism during the pandemic. The budget document also specifies that the money can go towards establishing a “national coalition to support Asian-Canadian communities.”

Though many advocates see the funding as a positive step, some say the government is not doing enough to ensure the safety and well-being of Asian-Canadian communities.

“It’s a good start,” said Avvy Go, director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, “but it’s just as important for the government to support organizations that have a more specific mandate to address anti-Asian racism as an issue.”

Amy Go, president of the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice (CCNC-SJ), said she agrees the funding falls short. “Given that people’s lives are still being threatened – that we are still targeted, that we are being attacked and assaulted – hopefully the government would do more than just the $11-million,” she said.

A report released in March by the CCNC’s Toronto chapter and other advocacy groups found that 1,150 racist attacks against Asian-Canadians took place across Canada between March, 2020, and February, 2021, compiled from incidents reported to online platforms Fight COVID Racism and Elimin8hate. One thousand thirty-two incidents have been reported to date through Fight COVID Racism alone. Verbal harassment, targeted coughing and spitting, and physical aggression made up the majority of the incidents.

The CCNC-SJ’s Ms. Go said while the report presented a starting point for understanding anti-Asian racism during the pandemic, the incidents are underestimated because many cases go unreported. “That’s just the tip of the iceberg,” she said.

She added that the creation of a national coalition, as suggested in the budget, risks erasing the differences between Asian communities and not addressing their diverse needs and concerns. “We are not one monolith,” she said, adding that many heritages and backgrounds exist within Asian-Canadian communities.

Mr. Hashim said the CRRF’s plan is to consult with local groups across the country to understand their needs, and also empower them to do their own work. The $11-million in funding will go towards researching and developing a strategy to combat racism, with a portion also allocated to community organizations.

“A Crown corporation is not going to solve racism,” he said. “It’s going to work in collaboration with community groups, who are deeply connected to the people that they serve.”

Xiaobei Chen, a sociology professor at Carleton University, said she wants to see the government invest in public education on the existence of anti-Asian racism and rising hate crimes against Asian-Canadians during the pandemic.

“People don’t think it’s serious,” Prof. Chen said. “People don’t think that it’s something that we actually need to think about, what we can do to actually invest seriously in solving.”

Investments to combat anti-Asian racism should take many forms, CCNC-SJ president Ms. Go said, adding that money isn’t the only thing Asian communities need from the government.

“We need to think more broadly – along the lines of the systemic policies that will bring about long-term change.”

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-in-the-fight-against-anti-asian-racism-advocates-say-federal-funds-a/

New head of Canadian Race Relations Foundation says group will take a stronger advocacy role

Will be interesting to see if a more activist approach results in an increase in influence and impact or not. All CRRF CEOs have had to grapple with the fact that as a crown corporation, the CRRF is not completely independent of government:

In its 2018 annual report, the Canadian Race Relations Foundation wrote: “It is not the Foundation’s role to be a strong advocate.” For an organization born out of an apology for systemic racism, that starting point made little sense to Mohammed Hashim.

Wanting to change it, he applied to lead the Crown corporation. To his surprise, the hiring committee handed him the keys, rather than showing him the door.

“I told them it was wrong for them to put that in the annual report, I was shocked to hear that. And I think we need to figure out a new approach, one that has advocacy as a central core,” Mr. Hashim said in an interview last week, during his first few days on the job.

The foundation was launched in 1997, as part of the federal government’s Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement struck a decade earlier. In the late 1980s, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s government apologized for Canada’s treatment of Japanese Canadians who were interned and stripped of their human and civil rights during the Second World War.

In the intervening years, some activists and experts in the field say the organization has not gone as far as it could in holding the government to account and advocating for the most vulnerable in Canadian society. At times, Jack Jedwab a former foundation board member and the president of the Association for Canadian Studies, said it’s looked “as though they’re getting direction from government rather than giving direction to government,”

Mr. Jedwab said the foundation needs to play a bigger advocacy role and “reaffirm leadership.”

In response to that criticism, Mr. Hashim said the foundation will be outspoken in addressing racism, pushing Ottawa to move from studying the issues to actually fixing them.

“I think there’s lots of room for the government to move on the criminal-justice system, on reforming the police, and I hope that the foundation can play a role in bringing people together,” Mr. Hashim said.

The Black Lives Matter movement has helped to show “the absolute necessity of public policy-makers to finally respond and respond decisively,” he said.

His risky interview pitch wasn’t the only thing that made him an unusual appointment by a Liberal government to a non-partisan position. His anti-racism work started as a response to Stephen Harper’s government, he said, and until taking this job, Mr. Hashim was a member of the NDP, worked on Jagmeet Singh’s leadership campaign, and organized for the provincial party.

’s now shedding his partisan stripes and will be reaching out to the party once led by Mr. Harper. In a 2018 podcast interview, he was highly critical of the former prime minister. Last week, he told The Globe and Mail that he was particularly concerned about the 2015 election campaign, which he called “horrible” and “terrible.” Mr. Hashim said the Conservative push for a snitch line on “barbaric cultural practices” contributed to a spike in violence against Muslim women.

Since that election, Mr. Hashim said the Conservatives have become more inclusive and are “going in the right direction” on race relations.

Among the issues seizing his attention today is the rise in anti-Asian sentiment, which he said is being fuelled by rhetoric from the small-c conservative movement.

“You can replace ‘China’ with ‘Islam’ and it feels like 2003,” he said, referring to the backlash of Islamophobia that rose out of the 9/11 terror attacks. China, he said, is deserving of criticism for its human-rights record, but he said it needs to be talked about in a way that’s “not alienating.”

Now on a national stage, he said he plans to continue the grassroots approach he honed as a senior organizer at the Toronto & York Region Labour Council. In that job, he flew to Quebec City to help with the response to the mass murder at a mosque, was an unofficial adviser to the Muslim community in times of crisis, and consulted with the Toronto Police Service on using language that doesn’t malign Black people or perpetuate stereotypes.

His role, he said, is to help people navigate uncomfortable conversations, which he calls necessary to changing the status quo. It’s a skill, his former boss at the Toronto-based Labour Community Services, Faduma Mohamed, says has allowed him to bring an “urgency and greater awareness” of systemic racism to decision and policy-makers.

Canadian Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault, who signed off on Mr. Hashim’s appointment, said his posting shows that the minority Liberals are “ready and willing” to act.

Still charting the organization’s plan for the next five years, Mr. Hashim is not yet ready to say what will be on the agenda. But for a sense of what it might look like, he said if it wasn’t for COVID-19, he would already be in Nova Scotia, amplifying the story of Mi’kmaq fishermen who have been the victims of violent attacks from non-Indigenous, commercial fishermen.

“I want to push as hard as we possibly can so that 50 years down the line, we don’t have to apologize again,” he said.

Source: New head of Canadian Race Relations Foundation says group will take a stronger advocacy role

‘We Are Canada project’ showcases diverse Canadian stories of resilience, tenacity and tolerance

Nice initiative by the CRRF:

Whether they were born here or came from somewhere else, they all share the same resilience and drive to thrive in this land of opportunity and make Canada a stronger country.

Through civic engagement, social activism and volunteering, community leaders and activists featured in the Canadian Race Relations Foundation’s new project showcase personal stories that reflect the values Canadians share in spite of diverse backgrounds.

In light of the rise of nationalism and nativism around the world, Lilian Ma, the foundation’s executive director, said the “We Are Canada project” profiles ordinary Canadians who fight for social justice and contribute to the country in their respective ways.

“They are community heroes who make a difference in Canada. We want to make their stories known to other Canadians,” Ma said.

The idea of the virtual storybook came from photographer and writer Jean-François Bergeron, who grew up in a “secluded and closed” community in Quebec and was inspired by people he met while travelling across Canada over the years.

“I grew up in a very homogeneous city. There’s no exposure to foreign languages and other skin colour. Then I came across all these people from different faiths and cultures. I was impressed by how they all have shared values and common visions,” said Bergeron, who spent months travelling from coast to coast to photograph and interview dozens of people referred through his community and professional networks.

“They all have this strong desire to contribute to Canada. Their stories share the themes of resilience, tenacity, tolerance and hard work.”

Born in Toronto, Kristin Kobayashi was thrilled when she was approached to share her story. Her ancestors came to Canada from Japan as early as 1906 and went through displacement and internment here during the Second World War. Unlike her parents who grew up being pushed to be “more Canadian and less Japanese,” Kobayashi was raised to acknowledge her heritage and not be ashamed of her roots.

To her, Canada embodies open-mindedness, inclusiveness, the respect of diversity and cultural traditions, freedom of expression and equal opportunities.

“These are the values I was raised with and am trying to promote,” said Kobayashi, an investment adviser, who has been involved in the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, Canadian Multicultural Council and the Toronto Police Service Asia Pacific Community Consultative Committee.

“It does not matter where people came from. It doesn’t make them less Canadian. We all came here at some point and we are all Canadian at the end of the day.”

Frantz Brent-Harris fled violence against the LGBTQ community in Jamaica for asylum in Canada in 2003 after he witnessed the murder of his friends. He was grateful to be here but it didn’t take him long to realize the subtlety of racism in Canada, from the person who stands up and leaves when he sits down on a bus to the lady who holds her handbag tight as he approaches.

The Toronto artist, sculptor and graphic designer also quickly recognized the lack of representation of Black people in the art scene that he says is still heavily influenced by colonialism. Through his art work, including his signature handcrafted Black dolls, he tries to reclaim that space.

“Attitudes and racism are taught to people. You can have some really nice people who have racist ideas due to ignorance. They are not malicious, but they just don’t have the exposure,” explained Brent-Harris, who believes the “We Are Canada” stories can serve as that bridge.

Pardeep Singh Nagra, a human rights advocate and Sikh community leader, hopes the narratives of different Canadians like him can inspire others, like he was once inspired by those profiled by Mehfil Magazine that served the South Asian community in Canada between 1993 and 2010.

“It featured people who looked like me. It spoke to me,” recalled Nagra, who endured racism while growing up in Malton and was trying to find his own identity as a Canadian.

Inspired by Baltej Singh Dhillon, who successfully lobbied the RCMP to allow Mounties to serve with a beard and turban in the late 1980s, Nagra, a trained boxer, twice took Canadian amateur boxing officials to court over their beard ban, and won.

Nagra said Canada has been built by pioneers of all backgrounds and an understanding and appreciation of that diverse history is what’s needed today when hate is spread through social media, and a law such as Quebec’s Bill 21 is passed to prohibit public sector workers such as teachers and police officers from wearing religious symbols at on the job.

“That’s alarming,” noted Nagra. “We are not others. We are all Canadians.”

Source: ‘We Are Canada project’ showcases diverse Canadian stories of resilience, tenacity and tolerance

Groundbreaking study documents extent of racism in Canada

In case you missed it, the latest project by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation and the Environics Institute. Media release below but well worth browsing through the main report:

Today – International Human Rights Day – the Environics Institute for Survey Research and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation released the Race Relations in Canada 2019 Survey, a new national survey of Canadians that is the first of its kind to cover race relations across the country.

This study confirms the reality of racism in Canada. Also important, it shows that this reality is widely if not universally acknowledged. Many Canadians across different racial backgrounds report experiences of racism and discrimination due to race, and also recognize that it also affects others of their own race and from other racial groups.

  •   Majorities of Canadians who are Black (54%) or Indigenous (53%) have personally experienced discrimination due to race or ethnicity from time to time if not regularly. Such experience is also evident but less widely reported by those who are South Asian (38%), Chinese (36%), from other racialized groups (32%), or White (12%).
  •   Most Canadians acknowledge that racialized Canadians experience discrimination either often or at least occasionally. Specifically, Canadians are most likely to believe that Indigenous Peoples (77%), Black people (73%), and South Asians (75%) experience discrimination often or occasionally; by comparison, fewer – although still a majority – (54%) believe this is the case for Chinese people in Canada. Very few (5%) say that racialized Canadians never experience discrimination.The reality of racism in Canada notwithstanding, most Canadians believe that different racial groups generally get along with one another, and are more likely to be optimistic than pessimistic about achieving racial equality in their lifetime.
  •   Eight in ten (81%) Canadians say that race relations in their own community are generally good in terms of how well people from different races get along with one another, versus just eight percent who describe such relations as generally bad. A positive view is held by large majorities of those who are White (84%), South Asian (83%), Chinese (81%) and Black (77%), and by a smaller majority who are Indigenous (69%).
  •   Six in ten are very (14%) or somewhat (46%) optimistic that all racialized people in Canada will be treated with the same respect as others in their lifetime, versus 26 percent who are pessimistic. Such optimism is evident across all racial groups, and strongest among younger Canadians.

“As social discourse has become coarser with the global emboldening of hate speech, so has the importance of civil dialogue grown,” said Dr. Lilian Ma, Executive Director of the Canadian Race Relation Foundation. “With the loosening of the bonds of civility, it becomes all the more essential to provide pragmatic, evidence-based and non-partisan data such as this. This study provides factual information based on lived experience and is meant to serve as a reference point for cross-cultural interchange.”

The Race Relations in Canada 2019 Survey establishes new benchmark indicators of race relations across Canada from the perspective of its citizens, and provides the foundation for monitoring progress over time. Themes covered in the research include: the state of race relations in Canada, attitudes toward specific racial groups, perceptions of racial discrimination in Canada generally and of one’s own racial group, and personal experiences. The study also draws comparisons with the attitudes and experiences of Americans based on research conducted in the USA.

“This type of research can serve as point of common ground that brings different stakeholders together, and provide a means for measuring progress (or the lack of) over time to support organizations in the public, private and non-profit sectors who are working to reduce racism both internally and in broader society” comments Dr. Keith Neuman, the study’s project director at the Environics Institute.

The full report of the study is available at: Full report

The research consisted of a survey conducted online between April 17 and May 6, 2019, with a sample of 3,111 Canadians ages 18 and over. The sample was stratified to ensure representation by province, age and gender, and also included over-samples of individuals who self-identify as Chinese, Black, South Asian or Indigenous (First Nations, Métis, Inuit) (the four largest racialized populations in Canada).

ICYMI: Canadian attitudes toward immigrants, refugees remain positive – Environics Focus Canada 2018

The latest Focus Canada 2018 data, overall ongoing positive trends:

The arrival of Syrian refugees, as well as thousands of asylum seekers over the United States border, along with the global growth in anti-immigrant sentiment have barely moved the positive attitude most Canadians have toward new arrivals, a study has found.

Six-in-10 Canadians chose “disagree” when asked the question “Are immigration levels too high?” in the February survey by the Environics Institute for Survey Research – a finding that has remained relatively stable for a decade. Eight-in-10 said immigrants have a positive economic impact. Compared with last year’s survey, more respondents believed that immigrants adopt Canadian values. Most of the national results extended a steady 30-year trend toward greater acceptance of immigrants.

“I think some people felt retrenchment was happening, or at least feared it was happening, but since last year the change is pretty small and is still more positive than negative,” said Keith Neuman, executive director of the Environics Institute that conducted the survey of 2,000 Canadians.

Canadians also inched away from the polarization over immigration issues seen in Europe and in the United States under Donald Trump. Canadians were less likely to strongly agree or disagree with several poll questions and more likely to express uncertainty and doubt, according to Dr. Neuman. “It’s not a big change, but it’s enough to say opinions are a little less polarized than last year,” he said. “It’s dangerous to assume what’s happening in the United States or elsewhere is also happening here. ”

The trends, however, are not universally positive toward immigration. Albertans and, to a lesser extent, Quebeckers, expressed more doubt about the legitimacy of refugee claims than in the previous survey, lowering the national score slightly. Respondents in both provinces also expressed more doubt about whether immigrants are adopting Canadian values.

“It’s Alberta rather than Quebec that has the hardest attitudes toward immigrants and refugees, which is not what we tend to assume,” Dr. Neuman said. “But it’s too early to say it’s a trend.”

Some 49,775 people claimed asylum in Canada in 2017, including 20,593 who came in at irregular crossings, mostly in Quebec. About 300,000 landed in other immigrant categories.

The irregular crossings received enormous attention in Quebec, including a lot of commentary expressing doubts about the legitimacy of the asylum claims. The province also saw the rise in profile of small, far-right fringe groups hostile to immigration, but the phenomenon seems to have limited reach.

The poll showed 42 per cent of Quebeckers agreed with the statement “Many people claiming to be refugees are not real refugees.” That number is up three percentage points from last year. Forty-three per cent disagreed, down six points. Nationally, 38 per cent agreed, while 48 per cent disagreed.

In Alberta, 48 per cent said they agree that many refugee claimants are not real refugees, an increase of three percentage points, while 35 per cent disagreed, a drop of nine points. Sixty-two per cent of Albertans said too many immigrants don’t adopt Canadian values compared with the national score of 51 per cent.

Even before the results were shared with him, Fariborz Birjandian, chief executive of the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, anticipated the Alberta difference.

Once he heard the numbers, Mr. Birjandian said the higher level of negative attitudes captured in the poll disguise an Alberta paradox: Some Albertans donate and volunteer to help settle refugees more than most Canadians while others express suspicion or hostility toward them.

“My conclusion is this: Albertans have stronger opinions on immigration. Those who support it support it wholeheartedly and those who have questions have stronger opinions, too. Albertans are more opinionated,” Mr. Birjandian said.

Alberta’s economy has also been in bad shape with the collapse of oil prices. Economic uncertainty often increases negative feelings about immigration, said Sarah Aimes, director of the immigrant-services department at Lethbridge Family Services. But, she said, positive sentiment about the Syrian refugees has tempered the negatives.

The Environics Institute poll of 2,000 Canadians, conducted by telephone between Feb. 5 and Feb. 17, has asked the same questions for three decades. It has a margin of error of 2.2 percentage points, in 19 out of 20 samples.

On a global scale, Canada still stands out for the public’s positive attitudes toward new comers and in the happiness that immigrants themselves report. When asked about their well-being, Canadian immigrants were ranked seventh-happiest out of 140 countries.

via Canadian attitudes toward immigrants, refugees remain positive: study – The Globe and Mail

The danger of politicizing race relations: CRRF Chair

A somewhat unclear piece by the Chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, Albert Lo.

Hard to know if written as a general piece in terms of how to have respectful dialogue, a post-Charlottesville commentary or recent Canadian protests and demonstrations, or a defence for the Board membership of  Christine Douglass-Williams  (see Federal appointee to race relations board under scrutiny for writings on Islam) given its timing and the tenor of the last few paragraphs.

My take on how to have respectful and reasoned debates on immigration and related issues will be coming out shortly in IRPP:

The purpose of the CRRF, as provided in the Canadian Race Relations Foundation Act, is to facilitate throughout Canada the development, sharing and application of knowledge and expertise in order to contribute to the elimination of racism and all forms of racial discrimination in Canadian society.

CRRF’s work, in essence, is to encourage Canadians, irrespective of their racial background or ethnicity, to uphold and honor the human dignity of all our fellow citizens.  Indeed, inherent human dignity is the very central pillar of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We all treasure our rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Canadian Constitution.  Where these rights and freedoms are abridged or encroached upon, even in favour of one right over another, or where the same are subjugated or circumvented for the sake of expediency, convenience or gain, whether financial, sectoral, political or otherwise, all will be worse off in the end, if not immediately. Rights subverted become a precedent for future action, especially politically, so that a retaliatory psyche can well become ingrained into the human rights system.

As individuals and as a society, we need to recognize that human dignity, and the rights that emanate from it, are a sacrosanct principle that ought to transcend politics across the entire political spectrum and we need to ensure that the instruments related to enforcement or promotion of rights remain free of political taint.

As Canadians, we have a shared responsibility to support and respect the rights and freedoms of one another.  To ensure a healthy Canadian society where diversity and inclusion truly flourishes, it behooves all of us to resist the temptation of politicizing the human rights arena for self-serving considerations.

History tells us that when government machinery is exploited or co-opted as a blunt instrument to silence dissent, to advance the rights or benefits of some at the expense of some others or someone, society suffers monumentally for generations to come. Witness the sensationalism, bogus narratives, demonization and hatemongering leading up to and surrounding the Indian Residential Schools, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Komagata Maru incidence, the St. Louis Ship travesty and the Japanese Canadian internment… The list goes on.  History can repeat itself if we ignore the lessons.

Exactly because of their motivation to prevent history from repeating on anyone else in Canada, the NAJC (National Association of Japanese Canadians) negotiated for the creation of the CRRF (Canadian Race Relations Foundation).  They also committed $12 million from their redress settlement, matched equally by the Government of Canada, toward an endowment for the Foundation, not for any self-indulgent purpose, which they are rightly entitled to in the circumstance, but instead for the betterment of all Canadians.

To delineate and ensure its function as an arms-length voice of reason and conscience, the NAJC negotiated for CRRF’s status as a non-agent Crown corporation, of which the Chairperson, directors, Executive Director, officers, employees and agents are not part of the federal public administration.

Human dignity and human rights can only thrive in a society where freedom and democracy is robust and healthy, where freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, etc., is defended and respected for everyone.

In a free and democratic society, no one has a monopoly on the public square.  Every citizen has a right to their opinions, no matter how disagreeable, controversial, unorthodox or offensive others may think, save and except for illegal or violent acts.  Demonization, character assassination and smear campaigns are a direct threat to the sanctity of civil discourse. Self-righteousness does not lessen these dangers but can increase them.

In these challenging times, citizens and government alike must take extra caution and vigilance against the dangers of faulty logic or superficial and simplistic examinations, or giving in to the effects of mass hysteria.

Just because East Asians eat rice, and many North Americans also eat rice, does not make those North Americans all East Asians.  To conclude otherwise is simple fallacy.  But that is exactly what many have witnessed in society today, where conflation of issues is rampant, and imputing motives or guilt by association seems to be the order of the day.

There are various views on difficult ethical and social issues and extremist and special interest groups may try to appropriate them or associate themselves with one perspective. These situations are particularly dangerous to the well-being of civil society where open and objective discussion becomes destroyed by ideologies or political movements seeking gain, turning debate into labelling and name calling. The challenge for all of us is to maintain a space where reason and compromise can still operate without politicization or unhelpful rhetoric.

As an organization dedicated to preserving NAJC’s generous legacy and the Government’s commitment to honoring the redress agreement, we invite you to join us in promoting and growing that legacy as an effective antidote to the many issues revolving around racism and racial discrimination.

Source: The danger of politicizing race relations

Federal appointee to race relations board (@CRRF) under scrutiny for writings on Islam | nanaimonewsNOW

One of the more ideological choices of the previous government. Understandable under review:

A board member with the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, an arms-length federal government agency with a mandate to combat racial discrimination, is in jeopardy of losing her post over her writings on the controversial website Jihad Watch.

Christine Douglass-Williams has been writing for the site almost since she was appointed to the foundation’s board in 2012. But multiple sources have told The Canadian Press that the government is reviewing that appointment in the wake of an essay that appeared on the site in May.

The post, entitled, “Christine Williams: My personal warning to Icelanders,” was based on a visit Douglass-Williams paid to the country alongside Jihad Watch founder and U.S. academic Robert Spencer earlier this year.

In it, Douglass-Williams warns that Icelanders are being duped by seemingly moderate Muslims who deceive people into believing they are harmless, and writes that if Muslims truly had nothing to hide, they’d allow police to conduct surveillance in their mosques.

“Islamic supremacists will smile at you, invite you to their gatherings, make you feel loved and welcome, but they do it to deceive you and to overtake you, your land and your freedoms,” she writes.

“They intentionally make you feel guilty for questioning their torturous deeds toward humanity — toward women, Christians, gays, Jews, apostates, infidels and anyone who dares to oppose these deeds.”

With concerns about the post circulating among her fellow board members, it came to the attention of Heritage Minister Melanie Joly, whose department is responsible for the foundation.

Specifically, there are concerns that Douglass-Williams’s views are a hindrance to her work with the foundation and an affront to its legally defined mandate, which is to help eliminate racism and racial discrimination in Canada.

In a statement to The Canadian Press, Douglass-Williams said it is not racist to oppose “the jihadist-Islamist” agenda, and that her writings are entirely in keeping with the work of the board.

“Any efforts currently against me in my private work are an unjust, agenda-driven and cruel attempt to intimidate me for my distaste for all supremacist agendas,” she wrote. She pointed to her recent book, “The Challenges of Modernizing Islam,” as proof that she’s pro-Muslim and pro-human rights.

“My book differentiates between Islamists and human rights-respecting Muslims who thrive to live peaceably and equally among Westerners,” Douglass-Williams wrote.

“They ask for no special favors and advocate for the separation of mosque and state; they condemn Islamism, and stand against human rights abuses committed in the name of their religion, sometimes at great personal risk.”

Pierre-Olivier Herbert, a spokesperson for Joly, said the foundation needs a board that recognizes the importance of diversity and inclusion.

“While we cannot comment on specific cases, with respect to Governor in Council (GIC) appointees, it is expected that appointees’ conduct not be at odds with an organization’s mandate, otherwise the GIC will consider whether action should be taken,” Herbert said.

The foundation was launched in 1997 as part of the settlement the federal government at the time reached with Japanese Canadians over their internment in Canada during the Second World War.

It holds workshops and roundtables across the country on combating racism, and also funds research into Canadian attitudes towards multiculturalism, immigration and other issues.

Board member and foundation spokesman Rubin Friedman said allegations that Douglass-Williams was Islamophobic had been brought to the attention of the board.

“We discussed those allegations and we looked at our mandate, and our policy, and we decided that we don’t make comment on what our part time board members do outside of our organization.”

The board has no control over its membership, Friedman said, and whatever might happen next is up to the government. Douglass-Williams’s current term expires in 2018.

Spencer, who launched Jihad Watch in 2003, has expressed frustration with the view that the perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attacks did not represent the true peaceful nature of Islam. He believes it must be made clear that the attacks were rooted in Islam — not to demonize Muslims, but to prove there’s a problem within the religion.

Spencer has gone on to deny the existence of Islamophobia, calling it a term deployed in order to “intimidate non-Muslims away from criticizing or resisting the jihad and Islamic supremacism.”

Douglass-Williams picked up on similar themes in a March 2017 post about a controversial House of Commons motion that called “on the government of Canada to condemn Islamophobia in Canada and all forms of systemic racism and religious discrimination.”

Douglass-Williams accused the Liberal MP who sponsored the motion of being part of a broader plot when she insisted on including the word Islamophobia in the text, as opposed to other suggested phrases like “anti-Muslim bigotry.”

In a statement, the National Council of Canadian Muslims said anyone with such views has no place on the foundation’s board.

“For a federal appointee to be writing for hateful websites, denying the existence of Islamophobia and calling for the violation of fundamental rights and freedoms of a minority community is contrary to everything the Canada Race Relations Foundation stands for and to the values enshrined in the charter,” Amira Elghawaby said in a statement.

“We are confident that the federal government will take appropriate action with respect to this matter.”

Source: Federal appointee to race relations board under scrutiny for writings on Islam | nanaimonewsNOW

Religious Accommodation Still a Struggle in Quebec

Some insights from a recent Canadian Race Relations Foundation workshop on faith and social inclusion in Montreal:

There was consensus among the panelists that schools are the best place to be pro-active.

Gagnon gave credit to Quebec’s Spiritual and Community Animation program in elementary and secondary schools. As a former spiritual and community animator at the EMSB, he said focusing on spirituality rather than religion provides “a window to talk about what we have in common.”

The program was introduced after Bill 118 (2000) deconfessionalized public school boards and introduced a mandate to promote diversity and pluralism.

“There’s always this push and pull,” said Poupko. “I think it has do with asking what’s reasonable and expecting a common sense response.”

That’s the approach Cristina Bajenaru takes as Project Coordinator at the Centre d’Encadrement pour Jeunes Femmes Immigrantes, a community organization that helps young immigrant women integrate.

Bajenaru said her clientele comes from 60 countries so she has to take a common sense approach to accommodation. If her training workshops coincide with Muslim holidays, she explained, “I can’t tell them to come, but I can’t tell them not to come either.” She said she lets them decide, and roughly half the class ends up staying home.

Through community consultations, the CRRF compiled dozens of other real scenarios that have come up in workplaces across the country. These are included in the Faith and Belonging Toolkit, a resource for workshop participants to encourage discussion and develop appropriate responses to accommodation.

Using the resource, Gagnon said he was impressed at the ability of the group to come up with solutions to complex scenarios.

“Spirituality in the public sphere, in [the] workplace, in society, when we talk about it reasonably and calmly, we find solutions,” he said.

Source: Religious Accommodation Still a Struggle in Quebec – New Canadian Media