STATEMENT OF THE AFRICAN CANADIAN COALITION AGAINST RACISM (ACCAR)
To the National Consultation for the World Conference Against Racism, September 25, 2000 Toronto, Canada
Any honest effort to eradicate racism must address its historical underpinnings in slavery and colonialism, and its perpetuation through the neocolonialism of globalisation. Past and present economic systems have sanctioned the oppression of one people or another on the basis of skin colour, and justified the deliberate destruction of oppressed peoples culture to facilitate subjugation.
African peoples around the world, including in Canada, continue to experience the evil effects of racism on their mental, emotional, physical, social and economic well being. Anti-Black racism -- among the most pernicious expressions of racism, rooted in the denial of humanity to African peoples -- plagues the daily lives of Black women, men and youth in Canada, placing them first in the firing line of the injustice directed to people of colour.
Out of this shared history and modem reality was born the African Canadian Coalition Against Racism (ACCAR). We are a national group of more than 40 organizations and individuals from across Canada, brought together to ensure the proper accounting, recounting and redressing of our stories, as Canadians, at the World Conference Against Racism in South Africa in 2001.
Anti-Black Racism in Canada
The Canadian government is proud of Canada's reputation as one of the finest countries in the world to live. The World Conference, according to the Department of Canadian Heritage, will provide a stage on which Canada can teach other nations about valuing diversity.
ACCAR believes that Canada can also tell another story -- of the overt and systemic oppression of racial minorities, especially of Black Canadians. Canada can tell of its expertise in denial, in sweeping under the rug its shameful record of slavery and anti-Black racism. It is significant that the Canadian government has not yet signed the optional protocol for the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination -- thereby relieving itself of the obligation and the accountability for eradicating racism.
To date, Canada's developing agenda for the World Conference is disturbing for its underplaying of race in the national past and present. Most ominously, despite repeated entreaties to the government since March 2000, ACCAR has been systematically excluded from decision-making processes established to develop Canada's agenda for the World Conference. ACCAR sees the banishment of African Canadian voices as an attempt to "whitewash" the entrenched pattern of anti-Black racism in Canada, which includes:
Canada's direct involvement in slavery and its indirect support for the oppression of Black peoples through its status as a colony and imperial outpost. The enduring legacies of this history are public policy, laws and socioeconomic practices that have denied human rights to Canadia ns for generations. Globalisation rises on the same foundations as colonialism and today permits the same socioeconomic and cultural oppression of Black peoples in Canada and around the world.
The systemic racism continually directed to African Canadians in education, employment, the justice system, immigration and other areas, detailed in a number of official reports and studies. Overpolicing of Black Canadian males have led to their disproportionate representation in the penal system. Educational streaming of Black children into low academic programs has limited their growth and potential to access opportunities. The absence or repeal of enabling legislation has permitted the nations workplaces -- including the federal civil service itself-- to continue to deny entry and promotion to qualified African Canadians. Canadian immigration policy saves its harshest application for immigrants and refugees of African heritage, including the criminal deportations of permanent Canadian residents and requesting DNA proof from Black immigrant parents wanting to sponsor their children.
The cultural haven Canada provides for white supremacists who promote the use of violence against Blacks. One need look no further than the shocking case of the Canadian military unit responsible for the torture and killing of a civilian Somali teenager during a peacekeeping mission. The blind eye turned by military officials to evidence of racist beliefs in the ranks is symptomatic of Canada's wider denial of its own "heart of darkness", anti-Black racism.
ACCAR does not deny the increments Canada has made in addressing diversity. However, we challenge the government to face up to the reality of anti-Black racism. Canada must include the experiences of African Canadians in the preparatory work and processes leading up to the World Conference, and at the conference itself.
Anti-Black racism must be tabled as part of the Canadian governments agenda for the World Conference Against Racism. The government must acknowledge the historical and contemporary impact of anti-Black racism on the political and legal status of African Canadians. A discussion on reparation, including compensation, to African peoples for the wrongs committed through slavery and colonialism must form part of the Canadian governments agenda for the World Conference. The Canadian government must respect the mandate given to ACCAR by the nations Black communities to ensure their voices are heard at the World Conference. A seat on the Advisory Committee to the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism must be provided for an ACCAR-appointed representative. ACCAR must be properly funded to carry out its role as a national body representing a significant constituent in civil society. Canada must sign the Optional Protocol for the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and begin to comply with international standards of accountability for its anti-racism performance.
Contacts: Sandra Carnegie Douglas, phone Eunadie Johnson 330 BAY STKEET, SUITE 306, TOKONTO, ONTARiO M5H 2S8 TEL: (416) 214-4747 FAX: (416) 214-4748