B.C. introduces legislation targeting systemic racism in government, public service

Click to play video: 'B.C. legislation introduced to address systemic racism'
B.C. legislation introduced to address systemic racism
WATCH: The Anti-Racism Act requires the province to strengthen checks and balances in its programs and services in hospitals, schools, courts and other public spaces – Apr 11, 2024

The B.C. government has unveiled its long-promised legislation to combat systemic racism in provincial institutions.

Attorney General Niki Sharma unveiled the bill Thursday, which she said is aimed at addressing fears that racialized and Indigenous people have in reporting crimes, accessing medical care or speaking up in the education system due to experiences of racism.

Click to play video: 'B.C. launches anti-racism action plan in K-12 schools'
B.C. launches anti-racism action plan in K-12 schools

“For the first time ever, government is holding itself accountable and public bodies accountable to build in more checks and balances to eliminate racism in provincial policies, programs and services,” Sharma said.

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“I hope that with the chances this legislation brings, no one in B.C. ever has to hesitate to reach out for help in accessing programs and services they need to thrive, without experiencing racism.”

The legislation was developed in part with information collected under the 2022 Anti-Racism Data Act, which allowed the government to collect race-based data to identify barriers affecting Indigenous and racialized people’s access to services.

Sharma said the new legislation would apply to public services including hospitals, schools and courts.

Click to play video: 'B.C. boosting anti-racism survey through government grants'
B.C. boosting anti-racism survey through government grants

It will establish a new anti-racism committee charged with drawing up a “whole of government” action plan to address systemic racism by June 1, 2026. Public institutions will also be required to evaluate their day-to-day operations to eliminate policies that harm Indigenous and racialized people.

Another measure aims to ensure that hiring in the public service reflects B.C.’s Indigenous, racialized and Black communities.

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B.C. Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender hailed the legislation, calling it a “significant stride” towards arresting systemic racism in the province.

Click to play video: 'B.C. introduces anti-racism data act'
B.C. introduces anti-racism data act

“The ARA is important for ensuring that B.C. uses disaggregated demographic and race-based data to spotlight disparities and propel human rights to the forefront and that it does so under the guidance of Indigenous peoples and other racialized communities,” Govender said in a statement.

The new legislation will also create a grant structure for groups of Indigenous and racialized people seeking to identify and address systemic racism.

Sharma described the legislation as the product of one of the province’s most extensive public consultations ever, and “the product of deep listening and collaboration.”

The bill was drawn up based on 225 community-led events and an online questionnaire filled out by more than 2,100 people.


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