Jenny Kwan, MP

Member of Parliament, Vancouver East

Jenny Kwan speaks about ending systemic racism

On February 5, 2019 I followed up on my questions to the government regarding the Minister of Canadian Heritage suggesting that Systemic Racism did not exist in Canada.

Given that February is Black History Month, I had hoped the Minister would take the opportunity to apologize for his comments and lay out his pathway moving forward regarding Canada's Anti-Racism Action Plan:

Madam Speaker, February is Black History Month. Events from coast to coast to coast give Canadians an opportunity to celebrate Canada's diverse black community. For many of these communities, their stories, history and contributions, both in the past and today, do not get the recognition they deserve. Black History Month serves to remind us that we can and we must do better.
While the government talks about doing a lot of things better, it often fails to take action. A year ago, the Prime Minister said it was time to take action on anti-black racism in Canada. Budget 2018 even provided some good first steps for funding. However, even the Liberal MP for Hull—Aylmer, chair of the parliamentary black caucus, is publicly complaining about how little is actually changing. He spoke about the need for public service buy-in for the initiatives.
Unfortunately, leadership comes from the top. Before blaming the public service, we need to recognize that the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism set the tone by suggesting that systemic racism does not exist in Canada. In October, I asked the minister four times to acknowledge his out-of-touch statement that systemic racism is not part of his vocabulary.
The minister's comments were an insult to racialized and visible minority Canadians. For Canada's indigenous communities, who continue to deal with the legacy of colonialism on a daily basis, his comments were a slap in the face. If the minister took the time to read the heritage committee's report, “Taking action against systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia”, he would get a glimpse of the impact of systemic racism on the indigenous, Métis and Inuit community from Senator Sinclair and Dr. Cindy Blackstock.
Senator Sinclair said:
...systemic racism is the racism that's left over after you get rid of the racists. Once you get rid of the racists within the justice system, for example, you will still have racism perpetrated by the justice system.
The minister, to date, has yet to apologize for his comments. The minister was caught out with those outrageous comments, because it was reported in the media. He learned that systemic racism exists in Canada through a process of open and public accountability.
It is no small irony that the consultation process for Canada's anti-racism action plan was done behind closed doors. Participation was by invitation only. Canadians have no information about it. We do not know who was invited or what was said. All we know is that the consultations are now closed.
This is the same old story, time and time again. The Liberal government makes a bold announcement. It says that it is the most transparent government ever, then it engages in a pretend exercise of consultation behind closed doors. I have learned from some participants that they were asked only to comment on a few very specific questions. Some left wondering what the purpose was. Maybe it was so the government could elicit the kind of feedback on developing a program it has already decided on so that it could produce the kind of photo ops it wants.
Even members of the Liberal caucus are growing frustrated. The minister should apologize for the insulting comments and let the light of day shine on the process to develop Canada's anti-racism action plan."
..."Madam Speaker, since it is Black History Month and the anti-racism planned consultations are apparently over, I would have thought the Minister of Canadian Heritage would take this opportunity to stand in the House, apologize for his comments and lay out the path forward. The parliamentary secretary acknowledges there is systemic racism, yet the minister said that is not in his vocabulary.
Sadly, this is not the case. Whether it is the housing crisis at Cat Lake or reports of coerced sterilization, the indigenous community is well aware that systemic racism exists. Canada's black community knows it well, too. Today, black Canadians are still stopped far more frequently than other groups of Canadians through the practice of carding. In 2016, former Hamilton city councillor Matthew Green, who will be running for the NDP in Hamilton Centre this fall, was street checked while merely waiting for a bus. Black lives matter and the time for action is now."