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Will This Quebec Commission Send Racism Into Remission?

Racism is part of our province's psyche.

08/22/2017 11:11 EDT | Updated 08/22/2017 11:13 EDT
Amru Salahuddien/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
People carry a massive flag during a march against racism and Islamophobia in Montreal, Que., on March 26, 2017.

The province of Quebec has gained strength not only from her linguistic capability, but also from the diversity of her residents. It is this blend of many cultures that has shaped the province into the vibrant place that many call home. However, systemic racism — including, but not exclusively, anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous racism, Islamophobia and racism experienced by other racialized communities  —  is deeply ingrained not only into our day-to-day lives, but also into the institutions on whom we rely for critical public services. Racism is part of our province's psyche.

A recent Mainstreet Research poll shows that 59 per cent of Quebecers acknowledged the fact that racism is a "very" or "somewhat" serious issue in the province. According to executive vice-president David Valentin, these results may be indicative of a new realization of the presence of racism after a notably turbulent period in Quebec.

Regarding the issue of racism in Quebec, one must go to the facts for evidence, although much of it is anecdotal. This is due to the fact that in the province, hardly any institution keeps numbers to trace the discrimination faced by Indigenous people, Blacks, Muslims, Latinos and other minorities residing in the province. A multiplicity of narratives abound regarding the hurdles and obstacles facing certain groups especially the Indigenous population as they attempt to access employment, proper housing, social services or deal with the police and other law enforcement agencies. Many Black youth are unemployed, and others are disproportionately and inappropriately disciplined in schools.

Systemic racism, whether through direct acts or subtle and implicit biases, impacts families in every corner of our province, and brings in its wake an enormous socioeconomic cost. The Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusion Kathleen Weil has unveiled plans for the public consultation on systemic discrimination and racism in Quebec which is scheduled to begin in September.

Public participation in the consultation process will be facilitated in various ways. An additional four working groups will be created in areas where discrimination is a worry, like work, health, education, social services and housing. On completion of the consultation process, Quebec's commission on human rights and youth rights (CDPDJ) will submit recommendations to the government, which is expected to release the findings and an action plan next spring.

Would this commission send racism into remission? These negative stereotypes are reflected and perpetuated by our institutions, including our criminal justice system, and in cases where these prejudices have shaped the policies, practices and procedures of the institutions that we use every day, eradication is imperative.

Now the commission has been put to the test, and the minister has assured the public that they would do their best to put racism to rest. In assuring that certain objectives are met, prime consideration should be given on how best to protect racialized groups, especially Blacks, from the most lethal upshot of racism. Institutions should be set up or classified according to the hierarchy of danger that they pose to these groups. Taking into full consideration the itinerant nature, power and our experience with the police, the police should be at the top of the list and ranked as the most dangerous, and as a consequence should have the maximum attention paid to them.

Such a move would serve a dual purpose, as it would herald a change in the recruiting process of those who swear to protect and serve, and usher in a sensitive, professional group of law upholders dedicated to the eradication of racism. When the consultation report is fully done, and all has been said, the commission can claim success if racism never again rears its ugly head.

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