OTTAWA — Former Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day has been fired from two jobs a day after making baseless comments about racism.
Day, who was also a cabinet minister in former-prime minister Stephen Harper’s government, denied the existence of systemic racism in Canada during a panel discussion on CBC News’ Power & Politics Tuesday. In the wake of anti-police brutality and anti-Black racism protests, the former politician took issue with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement that systemic racism and discrimination exists in Canada.
“Yes there’s a few idiot racists hanging around, but Canada is not a racist country... our system, which always needs to be improved, is not systemically racist,” he said to host Vassy Kapelos, before equating the experience of racism to being teased for wearing glasses at school.
“Should I have gone through school and be mocked because I had glasses and was called four-eyes?” Day asked before trumpeting Canadian diversity being celebrated around the world.
Watch: Canada addresses racism, systemic discrimination in Canada. Story continues below video.
Protests against police brutality and anti-Black racism have been organized around the world after George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, was killed in Minneapolis when a white officer kneeled on his neck during an arrest last week. Days later, Toronto’s Regis Korchinski-Paquet fell to her death from an apartment balcony after six police officers were called to her home and Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit is investigating. The incident has also played a role in Canadian anti-racism protests in the last week.
Day apologized Wednesday for making “insensitive and hurtful” comments.
Law firm McMillan LLP announced a short time later that Day will no longer serve as a strategic advisor. It cited Day’s comments made “during a televised interview” to be counter to its values.
“We believe that systemic racism is real and that it can only be addressed when each of us – as individuals and organizations – commits to meaningful change,” read a Wednesday statement by McMillan LLP partner and CEO Teresa Dufort.
Telus also issued a statement Wednesday that the company’s board of directors accepted Day’s resignation, saying the views the former politician expressed on television “are not reflective of the values and beliefs of our organization.”
Despite evidence, political leaders deny existence of systemic racism
Decades of work has gone into studying systemic racism in Canada, how practices and policies entrenched in our legal, economic, and social systems work to exclude or promote members of a particular group.
It’s well-documented in the Canadian criminal justice system, which has resulted in, among other issues, an overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system, among other issues.
Toronto journalist and activist Desmond Cole has been advocating for years to end racial-profiling by police. Muslim community activists have long criticized Canada’s national security apparatus for to promote the racially profiling of Muslims and Arabs.
Day hasn’t been the only influential voice to deny that systemic racism exists in Canada.
Earlier this week, Quebec Premier François Legault denied that systemic racism exists in the province before committing his government to drafting a plan to fight racism and discrimination. Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet made similar comments in Ottawa.