By: Chidera Kingsley-Emu

Canada enjoys recognition home and abroad for being a nation of cultural tolerance and diversity. A recent ranking by Usnews puts Canada in the 3rd position of 80 countries mostly due to “the countries reputation of welcoming immigrants.” But, a 2019 Ipsos poll reveals that “48% of white Canadians are more likely to think racist thoughts.”

Many Canadians do not acknowledge the racism towards black people in the country. In fact, the Ipsos poll found that “49 percent of Canadians do not believe that racism is a serious problem in the country…” and “[only] 31% of Canadians see blacks as likely victims of racism.” Mohsen Javdani, an Associate Professor of Economics at The University of British Columbia, says, this is shown in the lack of empirical research into the experience of black people with regards to discrimination.

A field experiment published by Philip Oreopoulos and Diane Dechief found that employers treat foreign-sounding names as a signal that the applicant lacks skills, making this consistent with “subconscious statistical discrimination.” This experiment focused on Asian and Indian sounding names, but there is no evidence that this does not apply to black people of African descent in Canada.
This bias has affected the hiring and the wage rate of black people. An article, published by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, finds that “black [people] had higher labour force participation rates than their [white] counterparts but suffered higher unemployment rates and bigger wage gaps than the average for all [minority] workers.”

This may continue to be a problem in the labor market. Tim Paulson, an Assistant Professor of History at The University of British Columbia, says, “[S]tructural racism in the workplace will likely be a problem for a long time, BUT… there is potential for dramatic change in the near term if politicians and the public are willing.”

This kind of systematic racism also begins at a young age. A 2015 report by F.A.C.E.S of Peel Collaboration found that black youth in the Toronto area struggle with low expectations from teachers. They are more likely to receive severe discipline compared to their white peers and face stereotypes about their intellectual abilities. The Toronto Police Service’s carding system was found to disproportionately target black people in the data analyzed by Toronto Star. It reveals that “black people were 5 to 10 times more likely to be carded by police than white people”, surprising for a city where black people only make up 8.9% of the total population as of 2016.

The Race Relations in Canada 2019 Survey, released by Environics Institute for Survey Research, finds that “Canadians more likely view racial discrimination as attitudes and actions of individuals and not as a systemic issue in Canadian institutions”. If this is the case, Canada may not be close to public policy targeted towards addressing the treatment of visible minorities. The racial bias must first be acknowledged if it is to be solved.