2018 PSAC Black History Month Statement
PSAC joins all those celebrating Black History Month by acknowledging the contributions of Black Canadians across the country and throughout our history.
Black Canadians are leaders in every field, both within our borders and abroad, as they make advancements in all areas of life including education, science, art, medicine, sports, law, technology, politics and social justice. Their perseverance, strength and passion are reflected in the vibrant communities all across Canada.
PSAC is honoured to recognize the essential work of our Black members who continue to deliver quality, public services throughout the country and who make an invaluable contribution to Canada’s labour movement.
Systemic racism and racial inequalities in Canada
To truly understand Black Canadians’ lived experiences, we must acknowledge Canada’s struggle with institutional discrimination and anti-Black racism:
- Black Canadians make up only 3% of the general population but represent 10% of the Canadian federal prison population.
- Black citizens in Toronto are “carded” (randomly stopped by police without evidence) at up to 10 times the rate of white citizens.
- Black students face higher suspensions and expulsions than other students. From 2015-2016, Black students in Halifax represented only 8% of the total student body but received 22.5% of the total suspensions. During the 2015 school year in Toronto, Black students represented 50% of expulsions, while only 10% of expulsions went to white students.
- Black women in Canada face an unemployment rate of 11%, which is more than double the national average. They earn $0.63 for every dollar earned by white men and $0.85 for every dollar earned by white women.
- Canada's child-welfare system has also shown racial bias. Black parents are 40% more likely to be reported and investigated by child protective services than white parents. In Toronto, 18% of the population is Black, yet in 2013, Black children represented 42% of the children the Toronto Children's Aid Society had taken away from their families.
Black Canadians deserve a prominent place in our history books, in our monuments, and in our museums, yet historically they have been overlooked, consciously and/or unconsciously erased from our nation’s history. Acknowledging Canada’s experiences with slavery, segregation and anti-Black racism is difficult, but to heal deep wounds we must first expose the injury.
Canada faces scrutiny by United Nations for anti-Black racism
In 2016, The UN’s Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent released a preliminary report listing its concerns with institutional racism, low-unemployment rates, poor health and disproportionally high incarceration rates of Black Canadians. They pointed to “Canada’s history of enslavement, racial segregation, and marginalization” as the roots of anti-Black racism in Canada.
The UN Working Group made several recommendations to combat systemic racism in our nation such as:
- careful preservation and dissemination of African Canadian history
- a government-issued apology, and reparations for enslavement and historical injustices
- bringing an end to carding and all forms of racial profiling by law enforcement
- restoration and funding of a National Action Plan against Racism
The government’s recent decision to officially recognize the International Decade for People of African Descent is a step in the right direction, but there is so much more work that needs to be done. We need to move beyond mere understanding and research and develop concrete initiatives to eliminate anti-Black racism in Canada.
It is the responsibility of all governments (at the federal, provincial and municipal levels) to spearhead the fight against anti-Black racism. The Ontario government has introduced a Better Way Forward: Anti-Racism 3 Year Strategic Plan which specifically includes initiatives to tackle anti-Black racism.
Canadians take pride in their commitment to diversity and social justice, and that means we must identify, and actively dismantle systemic discrimination. We can no longer ignore the covert racism and institutional barriers that have been an impediment to Black Canadians for decades.
What you can do:
- Call out overt and covert acts of anti-Black racism in your workplaces and communities.
- Become an ally and support political actions that seek justice for Black Canadians.
- Support and attend Black History events being hosted in your communities.
- Contact your PSAC local or regional office to find out how you can participate in Black History events from coast, to coast, to coast.