OFTEN when people talk about racism and discrimination, the focus is on negative personal interactions. But people that experience racism and discrimination in their daily lives often live with consequences beyond the pain of exclusion or negative interpersonal experiences.

For example, did you know that people born in other countries who are also visible minorities earn, on average, 78 cents for every dollar earned by foreign-born non-racialized people? Or that Indigenous people represent 4.9 per cent of the Canadian population but account for 23.1 per cent of the 2016-17 total federal offender population? Or that there has been an increase in police-reported hate crimes against south Asians, west Asians, Jewish people, and crimes targeting people for their sexual orientation? Or that Jewish or Muslim people in Canada face some of the highest rates of hate crimes in Canada?

Canada is strongest when everyone has a fair and equal chance to thrive and succeed. And people cannot succeed if the deck is stacked against them. That is why our government is engaging with Canadians everywhere to build a national approach to eliminating racism.

The standing committee on Canadian Heritage’s report on systemic racism and religious discrimination listed steps to reduce systemic racism and religious discrimination in Canada through our communities and evidence-based policy. And building on that, the minister of heritage asked me to hold a roundtable here in Thunder Bay to hear from people who have either experienced racism and discrimination, or work on this issue, or both.

I want to thank everyone in Thunder Bay who joined our recent roundtable and shared their experiences and perspectives. These discussions are difficult and often painful. But they are incredibly important as we ensure that we hear from the wide range of people with experience and expertise across the country.

I am confident the participants in Thunder Bay offered a unique northern perspective necessary to inform a national strategy that will truly reflect the realities in Northern Ontario.

If you are interested in offering feedback that informs the anti-racism strategy, you can do so online at www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/campaigns/anti-racism-engagement.html. Click on the links that refer to the online poll and survey to submit your feedback.

Eliminating systemic racism and discrimination will not happen overnight and cannot be solved through government action alone, but I know that doing so is critical for the future stability and prosperity of Canada. 

Patty Hajdu is the Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay-Superior North. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author.

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Thunder Bay’s Anti-Racism and Respect Committee produces this monthly column to promote greater understanding of race relations in Northwestern Ontario.

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