Canada election: Activists ‘frustrated’ over party leaders dodging racism issue

An estimated 10,000 Londoners gathered in Victoria Park and then took to the streets to protest racism, systemic discrimination, and police brutality, June 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Mark Spowart

The vast majority of Canadians are against racism and acknowledge it as an issue in Canada, though about two-thirds of all non-white Canadians say they have experienced it themselves, according to a new poll.

Those results come just ahead of the 2021 federal election — an election with platforms that, according to some advocates, don’t have a strong enough push against anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism as well as a commitment to police reform in Canada.

Sandy Hudson, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Canada, said that the lack of attention coming to these issues in terms of party policies and platforms was not only “extremely frustrating,” but “telling” of parties’ values.

Read more: 1 in 2 people of colour have experienced online racism in Canada, survey says

Though most of the major federal parties have included racism and discrimination in several sections of their platform, outlining some call to action to tackle the racial issues, Hudson says what they currently have is not nearly enough or substantive.

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The NDP’s platform included a pledge to “confront racism” and to ban carding, while the Liberals stated further support for an action plan to fight systemic racism, while the Green Party was noted as having the only platform that had specific promises to reduce the size of police organizations like the RCMP.

The Conservatives did not include any promises to tackle systemic or anti-Black racism in their platform — with the party’s leader even pledging to hire more police officers in face of calls from advocates to defund and reform policing organizations across the country.

It was a point that Fareed Khan of Canadians United Against Hate made during an interview with The Canadian Press Saturday.

Khan, who also pointed to the lack of discussion on racism from Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh during their campaign trail, told the Press that it had made him wonder how seriously they were taking the issue.

Click to play video: 'Global National: Sept. 10'
Global National: Sept. 10

“On the one platform when it would make the biggest impact during an election, they haven’t talked about it,” said Khan.

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“So what that says to me and a lot of people, activists, is that maybe what they’ve said over the last year is just a lot of talk, and they’re not as serious about fighting hate as they said they were.”

Hudson said that she wasn’t surprised that the issues of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism were being pushed aside from leaders’ campaign trails and platforms.

The fact that the Black Lives Matter movement still hasn’t been able to penetrate political barriers in Ottawa speaks to a “crisis of democracy” in Canada, said Hudson.

Read more: ‘Just a lot of talk’: Activists urge party leaders to increase focus on racism

She raised questions on why anti-Black racism, or racism policies in general, weren’t a large platform piece in the federal leaders’ agendas despite the massive BLM protests last year.

“How do you have an issue through which so many people take so many actions … during a pandemic, going out to demonstrate … and that’s not one of your flagship things that you’re dealing with,” she said.

“What is it going to take for them to care? It’s something that’s pretty disgusting to have a system where people … put so much energy into saying this is a priority for us and for them all to just really gloss over it … or ignore it altogether.”

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Meanwhile, the poll done exclusively for Global News by Ipsos found that 96 per cent of all Canadians say that racism is a “terrible thing.”

Just over a quarter of Canadians say they’ve been a victim of racism personally, though that proportion skyrockets to 65 per cent for Canadians who identify other than white.

Click to play video: 'Canada election: O’Toole calls debate question on racism in Quebec ‘a little unfair’'
Canada election: O’Toole calls debate question on racism in Quebec ‘a little unfair’

Darrell Bricker, the CEO of Ipsos Public Affairs, said that there’s been a “sea change” on the issue of racism as a whole throughout Canada.

‘It’s no longer a question anymore as to whether or not racism is a problem in this country and whether or not there needs to be change in order to deal with it,” said Bricker.

“But I still recognize, as the people in the surveys do, that there’s a significant problem and other people are experiencing it. The polling also revealed distinct differences in gender, age and region when it came to Canadians’ experiences with racism.

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Younger to middle-aged Canadians were more likely to say they’ve been a victim of racism in comparison to those aged 55 and older according to the poll, while men were more likely to say they’ve experienced racism as opposed to women.

Geographically, Canadians west of Quebec were more likely to say they’ve been a victim of racism, with around 30 per cent accounting in Ontario and Prairie provinces and almost one in four of all people in B.C.

Click to play video: 'Looking at the impact of COVID-19, racism on young Black adults in Quebec'
Looking at the impact of COVID-19, racism on young Black adults in Quebec

On the other hand, the majority of people in Quebec and Atlantic Canada say they’ve not been a victim of racism firsthand, with 57 per cent of people in those regions strongly agreeing that they’ve not experienced racism.

In addition, while over three-quarters of Canadians in most parts of the country say they strongly agree that racism is a “terrible thing,” that sentiment drops slightly to 67 per cent in Quebec.

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Read more: Trudeau says Leaders’ debate question on racism in Quebec was ‘unacceptable’ and ‘offensive’

According to Bricker, Canada’s change in attitude to systemic racism comes in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement — as well as the push for Indigenous reconciliation.

The majority of the Canadian population — the strong majority of the Canadian population — believes that this is wrong and it’s something that something needs to be done about it.,” said Bricker.

— With files from the Canadian Press

These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted between September 3-6, 2021, on behalf of Global News. For this survey, a sample of n = 1,500 Canadians aged 18+ was interviewed online, via the Ipsos I-Say panel and non-panel sources. Respondents earn a nominal incentive for their participation. Quotas and weighting were employed to balance demographics to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to Census data and to provide results intended to approximate the sample universe. The precision of Ipsos polls which include non-probability sampling is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within ± 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians been polled. The credibility interval will be wider among subsets of the population. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.


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