Canada needs to start taking racism seriously


A young man in Aklavik made a poster in support of Ethan Bear of the Edmonton Oilers last week.

It was part of a Delta-wide showing of solidarity with the Cree athlete, who had the sting of being eliminated from the playoffs made far worse by Internet trolls who decided to send him racist messages from the safety of their keyboards.

While the Beaufort Delta rallying behind Bear is inspiring, it’s unfortunate that these stories had to be told at all. Especially in the shadow of 215 children whose remains were found in Kamloops this week – victims of Canada’s century-spanning genocide of Indigenous people.

Experts tell us we should be bracing ourselves for more discoveries of mass graves.

Far too many Canadians have serious denial issues with the racism many of their neighbours deal with on a daily basis.

So here’s a primer.

An Ontario principal was let go after video surfaced of him wearing a black student’s shaved dreadlocks like a wig, first in a spur of the moment decision and then six months later as part of a Halloween costume. The student had shaved their head to raise money for a fellow student who was battling cancer. A 20-year-old black student in Toronto says she was nearly arrested for stealing her own car when a cop saw her brushing snow off it in February. Also in Toronto, a man who attacked a Chinese student after telling her to “go back where she came from” was sentenced to four months of house arrest. A Palestinian man in Alberta was attacked in traffic by a man who called him a terrorist and tore off his windshield wiper.

Lubicon Lake First Nation Chief Billy-Joe Laboucan says the Alberta government deceived him into supporting a proposed new curriculum that’s largely criticized for a lackadaisical presentation of the facts surrounding residential schools. Sipekne’katik First Nation in Nova Scotia is being limited to five traps per boat for their sustainability catch of lobster. The B.C. Medical College has apologized for the racism experienced under its workers’ care. Canada’s only Indigenous pharmacist, Jaris Swidrovich, quit his job at the University of Saskatchewan because he was sick of both direct and systematic racism. In Quebec, an inquiry continues to reveal disturbing details of the death of Joyce Echaquan, who was able to record nurses mocking her on her phone – as she died of completely preventable causes.

These are all from stories published in May.

Start looking back six months or even a year and you may begin to get a glimpse of just how big of a problem this is. Racism in Canada happens so frequently there’s a real danger of becoming numb to it. When those of us who can do something – i.e. voters – wilfully ignore it because it makes us feel uncomfortable, we enable it.

Racism isn’t just a part of Canadian history. It’s a very real problem happening to people in Canada right now.

And as Canadians we all have a responsibility to do something about it.