Good afternoon, Madam Chair and committee members.
I appear here today on behalf of the African Canadian Legal Clinic. The ACLC was established in 1994. Our mandate is quite specific. We are a non-profit organization committed to combatting systemic and institutional anti-black racism in Canadian society. We represent and advocate on behalf of the African-Canadian community and we condemn all forms of systemic racism and Islamophobia.
I want to start off by thanking the committee for meeting with stakeholders in order to develop a thorough and comprehensive understanding of systemic racism and Islamophobia and to canvass ways in which to effectively and efficiently address these issues in our current diverse Canadian society. The ACLC fully supports this motion.
The African descendant community in Canada has many various intersecting identities, and many members of our community identify as Muslim. Members of our community are often targets of both systemic racism and Islamophobia. In today's diverse, pluralistic Canadian society, it is more important than ever that our government speak up and speak out against hate, racism, and religious intolerance through not only its words but by taking concrete action towards understanding, addressing, and eradicating systemic racism in Canada.
This motion is particularly important in a Canada that has seen a spike in anti-Muslim sentiment and a rise in white supremacist activity. According to a report released by Juristat this past June, black people in Canada have experienced the highest number of race-based hate crimes up to as recently as 2015. Between 2010 and 2015, over half of the violent hate crimes targeting black populations were committed by a stranger. Moreover, 65% of hate crimes were non-violent, and 55% of those non-violent crimes were recorded as being mischief. A terrifying 35% of hate crimes committed against black people in Canada between 2010 and 2015 were violent. Nineteen percent of these reported hate crimes were instances of assault.
These statistics only represent those hate crimes that were reported to the police. As has been mentioned by others, considering the tenuous relationship between the black community and the police, it's not hard to believe that those hate crimes that have been reported are vastly under-representive of the total number of hate crimes targeting black bodies in Canada. This motion presents a starting point for the government to begin taking concrete action to eradicate racial discrimination in this country.
My comments today will focus on systemic anti-black racism in Canada.
For those who may not be familiar with the term, anti-black racism is a form of systemic and institutionalized racism that specifically targets the black community. The ACLC defines anti-black racism as:
...the racial prejudice, stereotyping, and discrimination that is directed at people of African Descent, rooted in their unique history and experience of enslavement. It is manifested in the legacy and racist ideologies that continue to define African descendants' identities, their lives and places them at the bottom of society and as primary targets of racism. It is manifested in the legacy of the current social, economic, and political marginalization of African Canadians in society such as the lack of opportunities, lower socio-economic status, higher unemployment, significant poverty rates and over-representation in the criminal justice system. Anti-Black racism is characterized by particularly virulent and pervasive racial stereotypes. Canadian courts and various Commissions have repeatedly recognized the pervasiveness of anti-Black stereotyping and the fact that African Canadians are the primary targets of racism in Canadian society.
The various manifestations of systemic anti-black racism are, as I've said, broad and pervasive, with roots in our country's history of slavery and segregation. As recognized by the United Nations working group of experts on people of African descent in its report on its mission in Canada, which was released and adopted by the UN this past September, African descendants have been present in Canada for over 300 years, since the early 17th century. From that time until its abolition in 1834, slavery was also present and thriving in Canada. Even after slavery was abolished, African descendants in Canada faced legal and de facto segregation in every area of life. In fact, the last segregated school in Ontario closed as recently as 1965. It was not until 1983 that the last segregated school in Nova Scotia closed.
The situation of African Canadians is not improving, despite appearances to the opposite on the surface of Canadian society. The disparities resulting from slavery and segregation of the African descendant community in Canada are still very much alive. These disparities largely result from how those who historically have occupied positions of influence and power and who have historically not been black view black people, black bodies, and black families.
There continues to be a persistent trend of inequality and inequity when it comes to the African descendant community in Canada. African-Canadian youth are disproportionately apprehended by child welfare agencies, inappropriately and inequitably disciplined and streamed in schools, and trapped within the school-to-prison pipeline. African-Canadian men are overrepresented in corrections, where they are given neither the cultural programming nor the skills training nor the job opportunities needed to avoid re-incarceration. African-Canadian women are paid less than both African-Canadian men and white women in the workplace for doing the same work. The African-Canadian community is struggling with poverty, precarious housing, and untreated mental health issues, and we continue to be routinely profiled and targeted by the police, as is the case when African-Canadian men and youth are stopped and then carded by police officers, oftentimes for simply being in the wrong neighbourhood.
These are only a few of the instances of systemic anti-black racism. These are real stories. They occur every day. The ACLC hears these types of complaints on a weekly basis, and unfortunately our intake numbers have yet to drop.
In our recent submissions to the UN's Universal Periodic Review of Canada and to the UN's Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, CERD, we included extensive statistics and case studies that truly exemplify the nature and existence of systemic anti-black racism in Canada. These submissions can be readily provided should you wish to examine the numbers for yourselves. Sadly, none of this is new. In 1992, Stephen Lewis recognized the prevalence of anti-black racism in his report on race relations to the Ontario premier of the day.
How does Canada approach this historic and pervasive problem? There are several suggestions that could be made, but today I will focus on a key few. Several of these, I believe, are reiterations of recommendations you have already heard from other community stakeholders.
First, the federal government must implement a mandatory nationwide disaggregated race-based data collection policy and strategy. It is impossible to solve a problem when you are unable to identify where the issue lies, or its gravity. This data collection must be mandatory across all federal and provincial ministries, agencies, and boards. The federal government needs to work with the provinces and territories, particularly those with high concentrations of African-Canadian and other racialized people, to develop a consistent data collection strategy. The federal government also needs to work with community groups to collect this data directly from the communities themselves.
Second, the federal government must also introduce a reinvigorated and robust national action plan against racism, updated to deal with the current realities of systemic racism in Canada—for example, the rise of Islamophobia. The new action plan should be the result of extensive consultations with all stakeholder groups and with an eye to intersectionality and the different ways in which systemic racism affects different racial groups. It should specifically acknowledge anti-black racism in Canada and provide effective ways by which to address anti-black racism.
Third, the federal government must also recognize that intergenerational poverty, homelessness, precarious housing, unemployment, and precarious employment are also a result of systemic racism and discrimination. It must work toward mandatory employment equity. In its poverty reduction strategy, the government has failed to engage a racial equity lens in order to examine the impact of race on housing, homelessness, and poverty, and fails to mention race in any substantive way. It is also necessary when dealing with these issues to engage the way in which precarious immigration status intersects with race.
In terms of other key recommendations for addressing systemic racism, particularly in regard to its impact on the African-Canadian community, I would urge the committee to review our submissions to the UN for CERD, the recommendations of the CERD committee, and the working group's recommendations for Canada.
In conclusion, the ACLC fully endorses this motion and recognizes its importance in Canadian society today as a means by which to take concrete action toward eradicating systemic racism and Islamophobia in Canada.