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

Town of Blackfalds holds Multi-Plex Open House

Designs for dual-arena, expanded library shown at public consultation

Lacombe’s Galactic Wranglers Robotics Club earns way to World Championships

Community donates over $18,000 for Houston trip in five days

Lacombe Rams Rugby off to promising start in 2019

Coach looking for right mix of veterans and new players

Kenney talks pipelines with Trudeau after election win, calls it cordial

Almost a year ago Kenney dismissed Trudeau as a dilettante and a lightweight

Lacombe Performing Arts Festival grows ‘dramatically’ in 2019

38th annual Festival runs April 29th to May 21st

‘Open for business:’ Jason Kenney’s UCP wins majority in Alberta election

The UCP was leading or elected in 63 of 87 seats Tuesday night

Three climbers presumed dead after avalanche in Banff National Park

One of the men is American and the other two are from Europe, according to officials

VIDEO: Trump tried to seize control of Mueller probe, report says

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report revealed to a waiting nation Thursday

Short-circuit likely caused Notre Dame fire: police official

Investigators made an initial assessment of the cathedral but can’t yet search charred interior

Alberta RCMP reminds Albertans how to be ‘egg-stra’ safe this Easter

Put away phone while driving, plan for a designated driver

B.C. awaits Kenney’s ‘turn off taps,’ threat; Quebec rejects Alberta pipelines

B.C. Premier John Horgan said he spoke with Kenney Wednesday and the tone was cordial

Federal government extends deadline to make Trans Mountain decision to June 18

The National Energy Board endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline on Feb. 22

Precautionary evacuation for Red Deer, Alta., residents due to industrial fire

City officials are advising people to close windows and doors and to turn off air intakes into homes

Study links preschool screen time to behavioural and attention problems

The research looked at more than 2,400 families

Most Read