Sizing up Racism in Canada: Salad Bowl or Racism Bowl?

In global politics it is widely known that Canada is a multicultural-multiracial country. It
may be likened to the description of “‘’salad bowl’ where cultural diversity and ethnic self identification
are promoted and encouraged” (Hutchings.C, nd. Canada’s first nation...). Canada
is acclaimed to be peaceful; it defends fundamental human rights to freedom of association,
freedom of speech and equality. This assumption is based on the facts contained in the
Canadian Charter of Rights and the Human Rights Commission. However, numerous events in
Canada with racial connotations have brought up the issues of racism and racial discrimination
that mar this image. According to the Ontario human rights commission “Canada, its provinces
and territories have strong human rights laws and systems in place to address discrimination. At
the same time, we also have a legacy of racism – particularly towards Aboriginal persons, but to
other groups as well including African, Chinese, Japanese, South Asian, Jewish and Muslim
Canadians – a legacy that profoundly permeates our systems and structures to this day,
affecting the lives of not only racialized persons, but also all people in Canada.” (Ohrc, 2008,
Para. 4). Obviously, it is evidently supported by the government of Canada that racism does
exist in Canada, to which I concur. Furthermore, to support this argument the paper will answer
such questions as, definition of racial discrimination, forms of racial discrimination, and positions
of the Government of Canada and its Provinces, and examples of racial discrimination.
Racial discrimination is “discriminatory or abusive behavior towards members of another
race” (dictionary, 2009, Para, 1). Consequently, some forms of racial discrimination include
subtle, prejudice, overt bias and stereotyping. According to the Ontario Human Rights
commission, “Subtle forms of discrimination can often only be detected upon examining all of
the circumstances” (Factsheet-ohrc, 2009). Consequently, instances of such actions are the
“weakening of the identity of Aboriginal peoples, suppressing their languages and cultures, and
outlawing spiritual practices, as admitted in 1998 statement of reconciliation by the Canadian
federal government”. Furthermore, continuous barriers encountered by racial minorities to
gaining employment are subverted by covert racism, such as the use of the pet phrase - you
need “Canadian experience” as grounds to deny employment. Certainly, getting a Canadian
experience seems like a valid excuse. However, if a Canadian organization does not employ
them, how do they get the Canadian experience? An addendum for consideration, would be
how does operating a computer in Canada differ from operating a computer in Africa?
In fact, another common form of racial discrimination entrenched in Canada is
stereotyping. “Stereotyping involves attributing the same characteristics to all members of a
group, regardless of individual differences; this is often based on misconceptions, incomplete
information and/or false generalizations” (factsheet- ohrc, 2009). Obvious instances of
stereotyping are the incidences of 2005, “the year of the gun” declared in Toronto and 2006.
“Toronto 18” became the motive “for a white Canadian establishment and their coloured lackeys
to proclaim multiculturalism over, to suggest that diversity was and is a problem, and
furthermore that racialized people in this country needed stricter and more stringent policing. ...”
(Walcott. R, in John Goddard, 2009, para 1).
An overt form of racism in Canada is prejudice and overt bias of a racialized person or
group. Beside the empirical evidence from affected people being refused jobs or apartment
based on their race, there is the obvious instance been perpetuated by Canada Immigration
services such as the imposition of visa requirement on nationals of some countries wanting to
travel to Canada, and some nationals generally from white countries do not need visas (report
on systemic racism and discrimination, 2000 pg 7).
Admittedly, the Canadian Government is doing a lot to subvert its racism image such as
the establishment of NARCC (national anti racism council of Canada) and the provinces
establishing their own Anti-Racism and Human Rights Outreach Program as a means to
develop in response to the increase in human rights complaints filed on the grounds of race,
colour, and place of origin in the areas of workplace and tenancy. This is not helping in quelling
the menace. As noted by former Ontario Cabinet Minister Zanana Akande, “When racism is
pointed out, much time is spent in denial, charging the incident or circumstance to other causes,
or claiming oversensitivity or misinterpretation. If the charge is institutional or systemic racism,
research is demanded to prove its existence...After the research is completed and analyzed; an
implementation plan is discussed and hopefully designed. All this happens haltingly and
hesitantly before any concrete measures are taken, if taken, leaving the claimants to suffer not
only the racism, but also the resentment of their colleagues, or worse. It also allows for much
time and energy to be expended before the issue is addressed” (John Goddard, 2009, para 2).
From the foregoing, we can state that racial discrimination does exist in Canada in spite
of the human rights laws and system put in place to deter such practice. A suggested call to
action would be to recognize and treat the problem individually and as a system and to wake up
and be aware that there is just one race and that is the “human race”.

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