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October 17th, 2018

NDP Addresses Comments from the Minister of Heritage

OTTAWA - Yesterday, the Minister of Heritage announced that the government had secretly begun closed-door, private consultations on the development of a new federal anti-racism strategy. Vital community groups that work every day to combat systemic racism and ​​​​discrimination have been left in the dark, with many unaware that consultations had even started. Even worse, Minister Rodriguez stated that he is deliberately avoiding discussions about systemic racism because, “that expression is not part of my vocabulary. Canada is not a racist society, wherever one lives.” It is clear that Minister Rodriguez is not fulfilling his mandate. The Minister does not seem to know that the consultations he is undertaking is a direct result of the Canadian Heritage Committee report entitled "Take Action Against Systemic Racism and Religious Discrimination including Islamophobia."

“The overwhelming majority of people in my riding are First Nations, Métis, and Inuit. Many of them have experienced, and continue to experience, systemic racism. For the Minister to tell them that Canada does not discriminate against them is ignorant and insulting,” said NDP Critic for Indigenous Services Georgina Jolibois. “His department also oversees the implementation of Indigenous languages in the federal government, as well as the upcoming implementation of National Indigenous Peoples Day as a statutory holiday. These are proactive steps that Parliament has taken to end systemic racism in Canada. For the Minister to be involved in these projects and not understand their intent is extremely unbecoming of a Minister.”

The NDP is calling on the Minister to immediately apologize in Parliament to Indigenous Peoples and racialized Canadians for denying the existence of ongoing structural barriers to their full participation in Canadian society. They're also calling on him to explain what steps he will take to educate himself about racism and the role the Canadian government plays in upholding systemic racism in society.

“From the Chinese Head Tax, to Japanese and Ukrainian Internment Camps, to police carding policies that disproportionately affect racialized Canadians, the suggestion that systemic racism does not exist in Canada is demonstrably wrong,” stated NDP Critic for Multiculturalism Jenny Kwan. "How can the Minister possibly fulfill his mandate if he is blind to the real impacts of systemic discrimination.”
“The worst form of racism in Canada is denying that racism exists, never mind the constant systematic racism. Across the river from Parliament you can find the offices of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development: still its legal name despite the new, friendlier-sounding titles that this government has invented,” stressed NDP Critic for Reconciliation Romeo Saganash. “No other government department or agency exists in this country with the mandate to provide separate services, register, and assign numbers to exclusively one racial group: Indigenous Peoples. Furthermore, the International Convention on Racism exists because systemic racism is a reality.”