Black History Month is a time where we can reflect, honour and celebrate the many contributions made by Black Canadians and all people of Caribbean and African heritage in the progress and development of Canada, as well as their impact on its history and our labour movement.
Whether it is in unemployment rates, wage gaps or opportunities for advancement in the workplace; Black Canadians continue to face barriers in employment. Black trade unionists in Canada have continued to demonstrate their leadership and activism in the Canadian labour movement by fighting for social change through union organizing and ensuring language in collective agreements reflect the fight to end racism and promote equality in the workplace.
Systemic anti-Black racism is significantly present in Canadian policing and courts:
- Black people are grossly over-represented in Canada’s federal prisons. Black Canadians make up nearly 9% of the prison system but represent only 3% of Canada’s population.
- In Ontario, Black Canadians spend a longer time in jail awaiting trial than white Canadians.
- Despite a lack of evidence that racial profiling, in the form of carding and street checks, reduces or solves crime, it continues to affect Black Canadians disproportionately. ?
- In 2013, Canada’s Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI) revealed that between 2003-2013, the number of Black inmates grew by 75%?in that period while the incarceration of white inmates has been on a decline. In its 2016-2017 Annual Report, the OCI noted that very little has changed for Black people in federal custody since its 2013 findings.
While the government of Canada’s consultations for a national anti-racism strategy have been underway, there is still much work left to be done. PSAC has provided its initial input on the strategy and hopes the government will continue to engage with key organizations like PSAC to ensure that anti-Black racism in Canada is addressed.
In late February 2018, in a presentation to the Senate Committee on Human Rights, witnesses testified to the importance for the government to publicly recognize Canada’s participation in the Atlantic slave trade based in Nova Scotia. They urged our government to issue a public apology to the descendants of those enslaved and to become an international leader in eliminating racism. PSAC encourages the government of Canada to hear those voices and issue an apology that would move toward reconciliation with Black Canadians.
PSAC encourages its members to commemorate Black History / African Heritage Month by learning, organizing or participating in events that raise awareness about the contributions of Black Canadians and those of Caribbean and African heritage to history, and particularly of Black workers to the Canadian labour movement.