The B.C. government has introduced first of its kind legislation in an attempt to “dismantle systemic racism and discrimination” faced by Indigenous, Black and people of colour in the province.
The Anti-Racism Data Act will provide a tool to ensure all the data collected will help identify gaps in programs and services, the province said.
“Our province is shaped by diversity with people from all over the world choosing to come to B.C. to build a better life. But for too long, systemic racism and the long-lasting effects of colonialism have unfairly held people back when it comes to education, job opportunities, housing and more,” Premier John Horgan said.
“These injustices are compounded when Indigenous Peoples and racialized communities ask for action, only to be told by government to provide evidence using data that is not being collected.”
The provincial government has been facing growing pressure to act on systemic racism within the health-care system and the policing system.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond conducted an extensive investigation finding system racism in the health-care system, including finding Indigenous Peoples in B.C. have inequitable access to preventative and primary care.
The province is also considering an all-committee report tasked with reviewing the Police Act with calls to get rid of the RCMP and municipal police forces for daily policing to be replaced by provincial and regional forces.
The government has not yet made a determination on that report.
As part of a wide-ranging consultation period for this legislation, more than 13,000 British Columbians provided input to the government for the legislation.
From the information gathered, more than 90 per cent of racialized people believed that collecting intersectional demographic data such as ethnic origin, ancestry, faith, ability and gender identity could bring positive change in B.C.
“It is long overdue to finally move beyond institutionalized denialism and publicly commit to addressing anti-Indigenous racism in British Columbia, using the tools that are necessary such as data collection, information sharing and public reporting,” president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip said.
“If accurate data is not collected, then First Nations people are often not believed when we describe the impact of racism and discrimination against First Nations.”
The legislation is one of the first pieces of new legislation to be co-developed with Indigenous leadership under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.
There will be “safeguards” in place to protect the information collected and prevent it from being used for harm, the province said.
It will also require government ministries to follow careful guidelines before any statistical data is shared publicly and to release statistics annually to support and advance racial equity.
“As a family physician and a member of a racialized community, it pained me to see the lack of infrastructure needed to adequately collect race-based data in a way that did not perpetuate stigma,” Burnaby family doctor Dr. Birinder Narang told Global News.
“Through the pandemic, we saw disproportionate impacts on racialized communities but felt powerless to advocate for our patients. The anti-racism data legislation will help to remove barriers, reduce systemic racism and increase equitable access to health-care services going forward for all in an evidence-informed manner.”
In March, disturbing data from Statistics Canada revealed the country is experiencing a spike in hate crimes.
Statistics released by the Canadian government back up what police agencies and community groups say they have been seeing recently — a surge in the number of hate crimes in B.C.Anti-Asian hate crimes have been reported to be on the rise in places like Metro Vancouver since the start of the pandemic.
The latest stats across Canada show the reported crimes targeting that demographic went up more than 300 per cent in 2020.
In B.C., hate crimes targeting Black people went up 92 per cent in 2020. Those against Indigenous people went up 152 per cent and those against South Asian people went up 47 per cent.
Nova Scotia had the highest increase in police-reported hate crimes, while B.C. and Saskatchewan followed at 60 per cent.