A look at actions the Liberal government has taken to counter racism

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OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is promising to do more to address issues of systemic racism in Canada in the wake of protests demanding immediate change.

Trudeau has been pressed in the past about what his government has done to deal with the issue, including during the last federal election when he apologized for wearing brown- and blackface on several occasions.

Then, as he did Monday, his government pointed to the national anti-racism strategy as proof the Liberals are committed to eradicating racism.

Here is a closer look at the strategy and what it is supposed to do, as well as some other initiatives the Liberal government has rolled out.

What it is:

The strategy is a three-year plan unveiled in 2019, following four months of national consultations. In its introduction, the government says the strategy “will complement existing government efforts and programs aimed at eliminating inequities” by focusing on demonstrating federal leadership, empowering communities and building awareness to change attitudes.

Why it was launched:

The strategy has its origins in a motion that went before the House of Commons in 2017 calling for the condemnation of Islamophobia and a subsequent study on how to curtail racism in Canada. One of the recommendations was to revisit and retool a 2005 “Action Plan Against Racism.”

How much money was committed:

The strategy is backed by $45 million over three years, though during the 2019 election the Liberals had promised to double that. They haven’t, yet.

Spending in progress:

— $4.6 million was set aside to create an anti-racism secretariat within the Department of Canadian Heritage. It was set up in October. They were supposed to release their first report this fall, but whether the COVID-19 pandemic will derail that is unclear.

— $30 million over three years will go towards funding community initiatives. The first round of projects to receive this money are expected to be announced later this year.

— $6.2 million to increase data and evidence regarding racism and discrimination. Some of the money is flowing through Statistics Canada to broaden the surveys they already carry out that would capture this data.

Spending coming up:

— $3.3 million for an awareness campaign, expected to be launched next year to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the 2001 UN World Conference Against Racism.

Beyond the strategy:  

— In the anti-racism strategy, the Liberals said they have spent $8.5 billion since 2016 on initiatives dedicated to combating racism and addressing systematic racism.

Included as examples of action taken are the national action plan to respond to the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, a plan they’ve since acknowledged has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

They also cite the national housing strategy, but have yet to appoint a housing council or advocate whose jobs it would be to report systemic issues, which are likely to include race, that are a barrier to people finding housing.

— In 2019, Trudeau appointed Bardish Chagger as the minister of diversity, inclusion and youth and in her mandate letter she is asked to develop and launch policies to combat racism.

What about combating anti-black racism specifically?

— the 2019 budget allocated $25 million over five years to Employment and Skills Development Canada aimed at assisting black Canadian communities. In May, the government began rolling out those funds, opening up a program that will provide grants up to $100,000. The $25 million is also supposed to help set up a Canadian Institute for Persons of African Descent.

— In 2018, the Liberals — after pressure from black members of Parliament and senators —recognized the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent spanning from 2015 to 2024.

— The 2018 budget included $19 million over 5 years, beginning in 2018-2019, for local programs to support black youth and black mental health. Mental health awareness programs for an elite basketball program as well as for black churches, and to study the mental health of Rwandan and Sudanese refugees have already received funding.

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