OTTAWA — With one eye on ultranationalist movements appearing around the world, the Liberal government boosted funding in this week's federal budget to address issues of anti-immigrant sentiment and racism bubbling up at home.
Funds for multiculturalism programs, initiatives for the Black Canadian community and a new centre to better analyze and collect data on diversity and inclusion were all included in Tuesday's budget, a clear acknowledgment on the part of the Trudeau government that the current global climate is putting the prime minister's "diversity is our strength" mantra to the test.
"Recent domestic and international events, like the rise of ultra nationalist movements and protests against immigration, visible minorities and religious minorities, remind us that standing up for diversity and building communities where everyone feels included are as important today as they ever were," the budget said in laying out the overarching goals of the funding.
The first piece: $23 million more over two years for multiculturalism programming that includes the formation of a new, national anti-racism plan, but that will also be spent through community organizations to assist with integration efforts in tandem with the Liberals' decision to increase immigration levels over the next three years.
Details will be made public in the coming months, said Heritage Minister Melanie Joly.
Joly said diversity and inclusion are fundamental for the government.
"We decided to really invest."
Concerns about integration routinely surface in research conducted by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
"As much as participants valued diversity, many were concerned with our society's ability and willingness to accommodate so many diverse cultures and whether our model of accommodation is entirely successful," read a report on focus groups held last year ahead of the release of the immigration plan.
"A few general population participants were concerned with how some parts of Canada might be 'losing their identity' because of the volume and concentration of immigrants. They were also concerned with racism among some locals and how Canadian society is challenged by individuals who are not open to cultural diversity or who discriminate against specific ethnicities."
It's not all just talk. Following white nationalist protests in the U.S. this last summer, there was a sudden surge in activity by similar groups in Canada, though never on the same scale.
The second big piece for Joly's department is $19 million over five years to support youth at risk and for research in support of more culturally focused mental-health programs in the Black Canadian community.
The specific allocation for that community represents the results of a concerted lobbying effort by the newly formed Federation of Black Canadians, along with members of the Liberal government's own Black caucus, who've mounted a full-court press to draw more attention to a suite of issues facing.
Donald McLeod, an Ontario justice who heads the steering committee helping the federation get off the ground, said in his view, the money being allocated is part of a far bigger pot.
He also counts $214 million earmarked in the budget to remove racial barriers, promote gender equality and combat homophobia and transphobia, all issues that affect the quality of life for Black Canadians.
While the budget may reference the current global climate, McLeod said he sees the funding as reflective of a domestic moment in time.
"We need help," he said.
"And so I think because we need help it's a voice that's been echoing in the halls, in organizations, in supermarkets, in places of business, in educational facilities, so that, no matter where you go, you're continuously hearing the fact that we need help."
The funds for Black Canadians are also linked to an announced by Prime Minister Trudeau earlier this month that Canada will endorse the United Nations' International Decade for People of African Descent, obliging the government to take strides to ensuring the full and equal participation of Black Canadians.
The third major tranche of money comes via $6.7 million over five years to give Statistics Canada the ability to better analyze and collect data on diversity and inclusion.
That, along with the anti-racism strategy that will be built by Heritage, reflect two of the recommendations from a recent House of Commons committee study on combating Islamophobia and systemic discrimination and racism.