There are too many people, communities, and societies that continue to suffer from the injustice and stigma of racism. During the current pandemic, we see the disproportionate impact of the crisis on racialized people, Indigenous people, immigrants and families with lower incomes. This is why the struggle against racial discrimination remains a central element in the Canadian Commission for UNESCO’s work.
The International Decade for People of African Descent
Did you know we are slightly more than halfway through the UN International Decade for People of African Descent? Overall, the goal is to achieve international recognition that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose human rights deserve promotion and protection.
Canada officially recognized the Decade in 2018 and has undertaken to learn more about the issues that affect Black Canadians. For example, Statistics Canada has been developing insights into socio-economic and well-being indicators for Black Canadians and educational and labour market pathways for Black youth. The federal government has also committed to community supports for Black youth, culturally focused mental health programming in Black communities, and public consultations about racism in Canada.
In 2019, Nova Scotia adopted an Action Plan for the Decade and issued a historic apology to African Nova Scotians. The Action Plan, known as Count Us In, outlines specific actions and priorities meant to end the challenges facing African Nova Scotians.
Racism: Canada is not immune
While recent events have highlighted racial injustice in the United States, it is important to note that racism and other forms of discrimination are a daily reality across Canada. The Canadian Commission for UNESCO actively fights racism and discrimination in all forms. This work is important because, while Canada is a multicultural country that welcomes newcomers from all parts of the world, the reality is that no country is perfect—and hate crimes, among other incidents, here have been on the rise. For example, did you know that:
- Police reported a 47% increase in racism incidents between 2016 and 2017, with most targeting Canadians of Black, Arab, and West Asian backgrounds? Incidents affecting members of the Black population made up almost one-third of all hate crimes.
- Black and Indigenous peoples in Canada are vastly over-represented in the criminal justice system?
- Hate crimes against Muslims in Canada tripled from 2012 to 2015?
What are we doing about it?
In partnership with the Global Centre for Pluralism, CCUNESCO is launching a professional development opportunity for high school teachers this summer and fall titled “Talking About Racism in the Classroom.” Other examples of how CCUNESCO promotes social inclusion to fight discrimination:
- Publishing three toolkits through our Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities to help cities welcome newcomers and refugees—including LGBTQ2+ people—and reconcile with Indigenous peoples;
- Collaborating with the UNESCO Chair on the Prevention of Radicalization and Violent Extremism at Concordia University on a tool that police services and communities can use to facilitate discussion of racial and social profiling
- Working with hip-hop artist and historian Webster and illustrator Dimani Mathieu Cassendo to produce a short history of slavery in Canada
- Promoting the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015–2024) with two special issues of Canadian Diversity magazine
- Supporting initiatives that aim to eradicate racism, including the National Black Canadian Summit, and partnerships with the Michaëlle Jean Foundation and the Federation of Black Canadians
- Collaborating on two events with the National Capital Commission (NCC): one that addressed the role of urban planning in reducing inequalities and creating inclusive neighbourhoods, and another looking at the history and dynamics of racial segregation in urban areas.
We encourage Canadian communities and organizations across the country to remain committed to eradicating inherited social injustices and fighting racism. Be an ally – every day of the year. Listen, challenge, and join the fight to end racism and discrimination.
Further Resources and Readings
For educators and teachers:
- The British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) Antiracism Action Group
- Historica Canada’s Black History in Canada Education Guide
- Canadian Heritage’s Black History Month Resources
For municipalities (Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities toolkits):
- LGBTQ2+ Inclusiveness
- Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples: A Holistic Approach
- Welcoming Immigrants and Refugees to Canada
- ''Eradicating structural racism for Black Canadians'', Policy Options
- ''Police-reported hate crime in Canada, 2017'', Statistics Canada
- Report of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (including the Durban Declaration and the Programme of Action)
- Navigating race in Canadian workplaces: A toolkit for diversity and inclusion practitioners, Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion