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

Bill passes to make Sept. 30 National Day for Truth and Reconciliation statutory holiday

Residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad and CRD Area F director Joan Sorley were in Ottawa for the vote

Wally Webber elected to fourth term as Nuxalk Chief Councilor

Webber took the win with 174 votes out of a total of 389

Bella Coola expected to be hottest spot in B.C. today

Temperatures are predicted to rise to 18 C

B.C. minister says rural internet is ‘railroad of the 21st century’

Jinny Sims talks details about the $50-million provincial and possible $750-million federal funds

IT’S OFFICIAL: Mt. Timothy sale complete

New owners looking toward year-round mountain resort facility

Sparks fly as SUV speeds down wrong side of Highway 1 trying to flee RCMP

Captured on video, the vehicle headed westbound against oncoming traffic before crashing

Bobrovsky perfect as Blue Jackets blank Canucks 5-0

Vancouver shut out for 10th time this season

Story of Wet’suwet’en Chief Alfred Joseph being told

Song of the Earth on Chief Gisday’wa will be launched in Hagwilget

Houston woman gets two years for aggravated assault

Ewald pleads guilty; trial of co-accused Calvin Dyrland begins in Smithers B.C. court

Fundraising campaign launched for man caught in SilverStar avalanche

In only two days, the GoFundMe surpassed its $15,000 goal

Terror at sea: Helicopter rescues frightened cruise passengers in Norway

The Viking Sky cruise ship was carrying 1,300 passengers and crew when it experienced engine trouble

Search and rescue team helicopters injured climber from B.C. provincial park

A 30-year-old woman suffered a suspected lower-limb fracture in Skaha Bluffs Provincial Park

DOJ: Trump campaign did not co-ordinate with Russia in 2016

Attorney General William Barr said special counsel “does not exonerate” Trump of obstructing justice

Trudeau in Vancouver to support Tamara Taggart at Liberal nomination event

The former broadcaster is seeking the nomination for the Vancouver Kingsway riding

Most Read