• Adam Lake

Dismantling Quick Fix Policies to Tackle Systemic Racism Properly within Canada

Updated: Oct 17, 2020

Credit: Depositphotos

Discrimination is a multi-factor, complex phenomenon. Discrimination, including religion or beliefs, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, and, most importantly, ethnic origin has continued to rise within Canada, despite the current climate on race relations. When it comes to combatting discrimination, anti-discrimination policies should be addressed, as policymakers need to thoroughly address stereotypes, prejudice, attention-based discrimination, and biases. Anti-discrimination policies and laws within Canada cannot continue to rely on a disciplinary approach. Although taking a punitive approach is an essential step towards combating discrimination, it does not change the beliefs that one might have upon a racialized and marginalized group. Systematically identifying unfair treatment can prevent discrimination.

Policy changes are necessary to address institutional and systemic forms of discrimination to create an equitable society within Canada. Policies are unequal by nature, and this is why we have a system routed within inequities and inequalities. If Canadians begin to understand why these various problems continue to exist, policies that address systemic barriers and further dismantle them will succeed. We are now in a moment when individuals are becoming supportive of issues affecting the Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour community. Still, the reality is that it is becoming showboating.

We can understand why it is essential to address racial discrimination through broad policy change and individual actions when focusing on racial and social equity, including how policies at the structural level continue to affect racialized and marginalized communities. When demonstrations against police brutality and systemic racism heighten, it is necessary to be cautious about ineffective, quick policy solutions. Understanding the outcomes that individuals from racialized, marginalized, and vulnerable populations battle will lead us to follow policies that are driving these adverse outcomes effectively.

Individuals are quickly putting together policy proposals to combat racial discrimination and police brutality, but fast action does not lead to quick response. We should be skeptical of our capacity to generate rapid changes that will have a lifelong impact. For example, the installation of body-worn cameras (BWCs) for the Toronto Police Service was implemented to reduce racial profiling in policing and improve relations between racialized communities and the police. The push for body-worn camera adoption was spurred in 2015 during the Forcillo trial, due to the shooting death of Sammy Yatim (by a White police officer in Toronto, Ontario, Canada). Racialized communities throughout Canada, quickly pushed this idea, hoping that it would provide Canadian police units with an additional level of accountability. Racialized communities believed that if the abuse was visible, that the individual would be held responsible, but we forget that police units throughout Canada face protection by policies that increase their discretion.

The issue at large was that more robust empirical studies, research, and evidence was needed before police units invested within body-worn cameras. The installation of body-worn cameras may also not change people’s prejudice and biases, and this solution has not changed how things are occurring this year. There is also a common argument that “institutions need greater diversity and representation,” with previous research showing that diversity within institutions would not alleviate racial and ethnic discrimination. Individuals are socialized to adopt the norms within their corporations and organizations, relying less on their ethos, individual identity, culture, and heritage.

Looking at representation is a game-changer for taking steps towards the elimination of discrimination and proposing policy and guidelines that uphold the Canadian rule of law, further providing safe communities and promoting public confidence. The implementation of a multi-provincial anti-racist project that encompasses a domestic coalition within Canada to examine racial, gender, and LGBTQ2S+ discrimination would show Canadians the importance of representation, equity, and equality while eliminating discrimination. This plan would acknowledge unjustified discriminatory and invasion behaviors that racialized and marginalized communities have faced since the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833.

The Canadian multi-provincial anti-racist project would show Canadians how institutional and political factors intersect, leading to negative responses of racialized and marginalized populations from bureaucrats. It would also allow policy analysts, political practitioners, researchers, and members of the general public to understand how various agencies respond to racialized and marginalized communities daily. The Canadian multi-provincial anti-racist project could be constructed in three steps.

Step 1)

Identifying the issue. Eliminating corruption within institutions to achieve reform through decreasing employment discrimination, increasing accountability when it comes to abusive behaviour, instill protocol through a community-based approach that enforces the rights of racialized and marginalized communities, and using this protocol within Canada’s legal system.

Step 2)

Gathering the facts. Obtaining relevant information on activities occurring within institutions, including race-based data, revealing discriminatory institutional practices for public scrutiny. These inquiries will further receive an examination by the general public, politicians, and the media.

Step 3)

Creating Civilian Review Boards/Yearly Reports. Creating civilian review boards throughout institutions and publishing yearly government reports can ensure the implementation of reform while dismantling restrictive internal policies. The reports will include a model for reducing barriers to protection within Canadian institutions. Civilian review boards and reports will further ensure independent reviews against allegations while increasing scrutiny on discriminatory policies to drive effective change.

We would then be able to look at bureaucratic agencies that focus on social policies such as education, work, health, wellbeing, and security; gauging if racialized and marginalized communities are becoming politically disengaged or engaged. Doing so would then allow for the implementation of debiasing interventions that could supplement the Canadian multi-provincial anti-racist project. However, much research is needed on discriminatory reducing approaches. This would eliminate racial discrimination and stigmatization. The implementation of debiasing interventions as a supplement to the Canadian multi-provincial anti-racist project could ensure that its persistence and impact would maximize anti-discrimination laws and policies aimed at individual and systemic discrimination. Debiasing interventions would allow Canada to combat discrimination against racialized and marginalized groups on a realistic level, allowing for the social acceptance of all Canadians.

The current discussion is not to say though that representation has not helped within municipal, provincial, and federal employment, public education, public aid, and others, to name a few. We do see cases where administrators help individuals who share their gender, sexual, and racial identities in a discretionary form. For example, on Operation Black Vote Canada’s website, Canada currently has 2 Black Senators, 5 Black Members of Parliament (MPs), 12 Black Members of Provincial Legislatures (MPPS, MLAs, MNAs), and 10 Black Municipal Representatives. One could, therefore, argue that everything is okay because Black people have political representation across Canadian government agencies, but we know that this is not the case. This does not mean a decrease in racial and ethnic discrimination within Canada, as negative stereotypes often arise, and policy preferences do not always align with different lived life experiences.

The Canadian multi-provincial anti-racist project and debiasing interventions will expose significant discriminatory issues throughout Canada, causing the image of racialized and vulnerable populations to become non-blinding. Both strategies would create viable and practical long-term solutions, focusing on education, participation, legislation, awareness-raising, and positive action. In today's world, where contemporary versions of racial discrimination and racism are disturbing and complex, taking sustained action to combat these trends is necessary. We need to ensure that our workplaces, agencies, and legislative bodies are genuinely diverse and representative of Canada's multi-ethnic and multicultural identity. Fighting against racial discrimination and racism will ensure that "All humans beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."