Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism Pablo Rodriguez responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Friday October 19, 2018 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Feds consulting on national anti-racism strategy behind closed doors

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says people still face systemic racism in some communities

The federal government is consulting experts and community leaders ahead of a new national anti-racism strategy, but in a series of secretive meetings to avoid them turning into public shouting matches.

Four meetings have already been held — all in southern Ontario — and another 19 are to take place nationwide before the end of the year.

However, the government is not publicizing who attended, who will be at future meetings or even where those meetings are taking place. Participation is by invitation only.

There are still Canadian communities where people face systemic racism, oppression and discrimination, Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said Friday.

The minister has not, however, directly explained why he told The Globe and Mail newspaper earlier this week that systemic racism was not “part of his vocabulary” and that Canada was not in fact a racist society.

READ MORE: Trudeau says anti-black racism exists in Canada

New Democrat MP Jenny Kwan asked Rodriguez this week multiple times in the House of Commons to explain and apologize for his comment, to which Rodriguez only said racism does exist in Canada.

The racism consultations follow a Commons committee study of systemic racism in Canada, which last winter recommended a national plan be developed with measurable goals.

The government quietly posted online information about the start of the consultations Oct. 15, along with an online survey members of the public can take. The questions touch on personal experiences with racism and whether the phenomenon exists in the justice system, with jury selection or even in how workplaces schedule holidays.

But there is no information about the consultations beyond that they will occur with “community members, leaders, experts, academics and stakeholders across Canada.”

“These meetings will not be open to the public in order to ensure that participants are able to have focused, meaningful and safe conversations on subjects that, for many, include reflecting on harmful experiences,” the website states.

The NDP argues the process is so secretive a number of groups that would want to take part didn’t even know the consultations had begun.

Last February, an anti-racism town hall hosted in Toronto by several Liberal MPs and members of the Ontario legislature ended up with a call to police. It was derailed by a number of people Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith says were white supremacists bent on shouting down speakers demanding a definition of Islamophobia.

“It was a jarring reminder of the work we still have to do in the name of equality when people are so willing to be so public in displaying their hate,” Erskine-Smith said in the Commons this week.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Casa Loma residents petition to halt proposed Blackmun Bay project

West Kelowna City Council grants second reading for what would be the city’s largest development

Lakestone Grand Opening set for this weekend in Lake Country

MP Stephen Fuhr, MLA Norm Letnick and Mayor James Baker will all speak at the event

West Kelowna RCMP search witnesses in assault

A man was attacked in the early morning on July 16

Small business spotlight: Kelowna’s master tailor

Sam Galvez started his business in Kelowna 6 years ago

Kelowna ranks fifth in where Canadians will move to buy a home: study

‘The study suggests that the dream of homeownership is very much alive and well,’ said Finder’s editor

West Kelowna vet saves turtle from hook

Dr. Moshe Oz removed fish hook lodged in the turtle’s throat

Worried about bats? Here’s what to do if you come across one in B.C.

Bat expert with the BC Community Bat Program urges caution around the small creatures

Boat sails from trailer to pavement at Sicamous Highway 97A intersection

Alberta resident charged with transporting insecure load, failing to adequately connect trailer

Collision with hydro pole cuts power to thousands in the Shuswap

Minor injuries to the driver were reported; power was restored by the following morning

B.C. on right road with tougher ride-hailing driver rules, says expert

The provincial government is holding firm that ride-hailing drivers have a Class 4 licence

RCMP investigating alleged ‘sexual misconduct’ by cyclist on BCIT campus

BCIT said they were reviewing video evidence of the incident

New home cost dips in B.C.’s large urban centres

Victoria, Kelowna, Vancouver prices decline from last year

Graphic suicide scene edited out of ‘13 Reasons Why’ finale

Suicide prevention groups support the decision

Nine kittens and cats rescued after being locked in bins in northern B.C.: SPCA

SPCA says cats were starving, and matted with feces and urine

Most Read