Canada might not be as inclusive as Canadians like to think it is.
Stories from recent years about racially-charged outbursts — like that of a woman in a Lethbridge, Alta., Denny’s this month — and a seemingly growing white nationalist movement suggest racism thrives north of the 49th parallel.
And so does research. The federal government is preparing to launch consultations on a national anti-racism strategy guided, in part, by a House of Commons committee study on combating Islamophobia and systemic discrimination and racism.
The study, published in February, presents data on police-reported and self-reported hate crimes from 2015 to 2017 and said that while the number of hate crimes reported in Canada has decreased since 2009, it rose in 2015 and again in 2016.
In 2015, while the incidence of hate crimes rose by five per cent, the incidence of hate crimes against Muslims rose by 61 per cent.
“Data regarding the motivation behind hate crimes indicated a five per cent rise in the number of incidents motivated by hate of a race or ethnicity,” the report says, “which represented ‘close to half of all hate crimes reported to the police in 2015.'”
In 2016, the number of hate crimes reported increased by another three per cent, although, the study points out, the number of incidents motivated by race or ethnicity decreased slightly that year.
The study includes a list of recommendations divided into categories like law enforcement, education and training, Indigenous affairs and interfaith and intercultural dialogue.
It exposes an “increasing public climate of hate and fear” in Canada and presses the government to quell it.
It urges the government to work with police on sensitivity training, to condemn systemic racism and religious discrimination, and to remove unconscious bias in proposed policies, programs, and decisions.
It stresses the need to update Canada’s previous action plan against racism and expand it to include religious discrimination, and it recommends that Jan. 29 be designated as a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Islamophobia.
Because, as MP Greg Fergus, president of the Canadian Caucus of Black Parliamentarians said after a Liberal caucus meeting, “systemic racism exists in Canada…We’re much better than other societies around the world, but…we still have our flaws.”
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