Racism is an ideology that implies the superiority of one race over others. The Government of Canada defines racism as “any individual action, or institutional practice which treats people differently because of their colour or ethnicity”. Yet race is not a biological category among humans, rather a concept created in the end of 18th century by American Christian leaders to justify slavery of Africans by downgrading them to nonhuman status.

Researchers classify racism into individual, institutional or systemic, and cultural or ideological categories. Individual racism consists of racist attitudes and overt behavior provoked by those attitudes. Institutional racism refers to policies, practices, and procedures that may promote, sustain, or entrench differential advantage or privilege for people of certain races. Systemic racism occurs when institutions working together create and sustain racial inequity. Cultural racism is the overarching form of racism, and it occurs when collective racist beliefs are embedded in the dominant culture.

Canada has a legacy of racism towards Indigenous People, African, Chinese, Japanese, South Asian, Jewish and Muslim Canadians. Indigenous People have experienced the most persistent and destructive racism. Between 1831 and 1996, more than 150,000 children from First Nations, Inuit and Metis Nation communities were taken from their homes and sent to residential schools as part of an organized campaign of religious and cultural conversion. Thousands of those children suffered physical and sexual abuse at residential schools; many of them never returned. The legacy of colonialism has relegated Indigenous People to among the poorest in Canada, and the income inequality between Indigenous People and the rest of Canadians persists with serious social, economic and health consequences.

Why should we protect biodiversity?

  • First, racism is WRONG!
  • A healthy society requires inclusiveness and fairness where everyone is treated equally despite the ethnicity, gender, age, religion, or any other factors.
  • Racial attacks cause lingering impacts for victims, including depression, anxiety, lower self-esteem and poor health.
  • All of us are equal members of human society and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
  • Racism will only get worse if we choose to ignore it. On any given day any one of us can be a victim of discrimination if racism is allowed.

What We Can Do

  • Be aware of your own prejudice or misunderstanding of other cultures. Be open to learn.
  • Stand up and speak out. If you witness a racist incident, be an active intervener whenever it is safe for you to do so. If you are a victim, share your experience to raise awareness and action.
  • Advocate your government to establish legislation against racism.
  • Say no to hate messages on social media and misrepresentation of minority groups on media.

Fast facts

  • In Canada, the most persistent and destructive racism is against Indigenous Peoples. 
  • Racialized stereotypes are manifested and reinforced in media. For instance, common stereotypes associated with Indigenous People include alcohol and drug addiction, while Chinese people often are considered “model minority” as they work hard without challenge unfair social norms.
  • First Nations women between 25 and 44 were five times more likely to die from violence compared to other women of the same age.
  • Anti-Semitism has long been a problem in Canada. Hate crimes against Jews is the highest per-capita form of race-based violence reported in Canada. 
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, hate crimes targeting Chinese and Asian people upsurged in Canada and U.S.  For instance, hate crimes against Asian people in 2020 increased over 700% in Vancouver compared to 2019.
  • Black people have long been victims of racial profiling in United States. The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020 sparked the largest racial justice protests in United States since its Civil Rights Movement and spread across the globe. 
  • Misinformation and hate message distributed on social media has made racism much worse.