International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (21st) – New Anti-Racism Directorate and Director
We’ve come a long way with equality in the past few decades, both gender and racial equality. Yet, discrimination still exists on many levels for many different groups. In North America, there is a rising trend of black women being killed by their intimate partners, and many times, these murders are under-reported. In Canada in particular, a woman is killed by her intimate partner every six days on average. Violence experienced by Indigenous women in Canada is especially concerning, with 15% of Indigenous women having reported being abused by a current or former spouse. This number is staggering compared to the overall percentage of Canadian women who report violence at the hand of a partner - 6%. Violence against women is an ongoing problem, but it’s compounded for both indigenous and black women. This is why addressing this violence and racism at every level is vital to helping better the province for everyone.
In 2017, the Ontario government released its Anti-Racism Act, which focuses on eliminating systemic racism while advancing racial equality. With the premise that everyone deserves to be treated with fairness, respect and dignity, the Act makes a commitment to end racism and promote racial equality because it supports the development of Ontario as a whole. The Anti-Racism Directorate leads the government’s anti-racism initiatives by working to identify, address and prevent systemic racism in government policy, legislation, programs and services. This much-needed initiative will help eliminate racism that exists on so many levels.
We cannot argue that prejudice and racism has run deep throughout our history and as a result, has shaped policies and institutional practices. This has led to an over-representation of Black and Indigenous people in our jails as well as the reality that Black and Indigenous children are more likely to be in foster care and children’s aid services. There are also accompanying economic challenges. For instance, Black women in Ontario are more likely to be unemployed or underemployed, compared to white women with the same education. The cyclical racism that exists in our society has also greatly affected personal relationships and familites. Domestic violence in particular is often cyclical. By focusing on eliminating racism and creating fair and equal opportunities for everyone, we can ideally help to break many of these violent cycles and eliminate cyclical family violence.
We cannot prosper as a society when certain communities and groups face barriers that prevent them from reaching their full potential, nor can we thrive when there are so many people still experiencing gender violence and racism that greatly affects their quality of life, safety and ability to succeed.
But how do we fix this? By starting at the beginning and changing mindsets and knowledge about what we all believe to be true. We can start with children and schools, ensuring everyone is aware of racial prejudice and the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada, including the residential school system. Learning about the negative impacts of discrimination and racism will help pave the way to understand the importance of tolerance, inclusivity, respect and healthy relationships. Educating everyone on violence against women and children and ensuring there are enough supports and help for everyone can also assist in ensuring that those who are affected are able to get the help and security they need to escape those situations and relationships. The Anti-Racism Directorate will have a cascading effect on many other areas of life, and we’re looking forward to helping create a more equal, fair and safe province, for everyone.