Like in many corners of the world, Canada too is grappling with issues regarding systemic racism and discrimination. The alarming rise in hate crimes, police violence, inequities and barriers in the labour market and in accessing critical public services, such as education and health, has contributed to increased inequalities and lower quality of life for Indigenous and racialized people in the country.
A renewed global racial justice movement has led to strong public calls demanding that governments demonstrate leadership and do more to address systemic racism and dismantle barriers towards full social, economic and political participation for Indigenous, Black and people of colour. Various levels of government across Canada have taken action on this front -- dedicating resources, establishing political advisory bodies and committees, and developing anti-racism action plans and strategies.
Examples include the federal government’s Anti-Racism Strategy, the creation of provincial bodies such as Ontario’s Anti-Racism Directorate; Nova Scotia’s Office of Equity and Anti-Racism Initiatives, Alberta’s Anti-Racism Advisory Council and municipal initiatives such as Fredericton’s Anti-Racism Task Force, Edmonton’s Anti-Racism Advisory Committee and Hamilton’s Committee Against Racism.
We are now urging the government of Manitoba to take similar steps and tackle the growing impacts of racism and discrimination affecting communities throughout the province. A recent survey of Manitobans found that 61% believed that racism was a problem in the province. Another survey revealed that over a quarter of Manitoba respondents had experienced racism over the past year while a further study found 58% experienced racism during their lifetime.
There is ample evidence to support these public concerns. Indigenous people are disproportionately represented in Manitoba’s prison and child welfare systems, while experiencing higher rates of poverty and unemployment compared to non-Indigenous people. Most police-involved deaths in Manitoba were against Indigenous people. Black, Indigenous and people of colour comprise 35% of Manitoba’s population yet counted for more than 50% of positive COVID-19 cases in 2020. In addition, in 2019, Manitoba ranked 5th amongst all provinces and territories for police reported hate crimes.
It is clear that swift and bold political action is needed. That is why we are calling on the provincial government to takes steps in developing an Anti-Racism Action Plan. Such a plan would include the following key activities:
- Establish a permanently staffed and resourced Manitoba Anti-Racism Task Force (or Advisory Council?). This arms-length government task force would be responsible for developing and overseeing a long-term provincial anti-racism strategic plan that would be developed in consultation with impacted communities, regions and key stakeholders (e.g. Indigenous leaders and communities, grassroots groups and community leaders, community organizations, racial justice advocates, labour unions, academics, etc.). It would develop a set of recommendations on necessary strategies, programs, policies and legislation, and work with the provincial government and relevant ministries to ensure implementation.
This anti-racism strategic plan would be actively monitored by the task force and annual evaluation reports produced and publically released to monitor progress and identify areas of improvement.
- Identify and remove all systemic barriers (including language barriers) in accessing government programs and public services for Indigenous, migrants and racialized groups. Key public service sectors would include health, housing, employment, justice and education.
- Mandatory anti-racism training for all government public service workers, including police forces that operate within Manitoba.
- Develop and pass a provincial Employment Equity Act for all government and public workplaces.
- Direct all provincial ministries, departments and publicly-funded organizations to collect (and make public) disaggregated race-based data to better understand how racism and discrimination impacts racialized and Indigenous people’s social participation and quality of life, identify service barriers and gaps, and evaluate progress on dismantling systemic barriers for government programs and services.
- Develop and undertake a province-wide public anti-racism education and awareness campaign that focuses on challenging racist attitudes and behaviors.
- Create an annual anti-racism grant that will provide multi-year government project funding to grassroots community groups and organizations doing direct anti-racism and equity work in their regions and communities.
- Establish a hate crime task force to develop and execute a plan aimed at the active monitoring, reporting and combatting of hate crimes, hate speech and organized hate groups.
 Prairie Research Associates (2020). RACISM – perceptions and perspectives from Manitobans
 Annable, K. (2018). Most people who died in police encounters in Manitoba were Indigenous, CBC investigation finds. CBC News.