With the protests happening in America right now, us friendly Canadians may like to think that we are a more welcoming country unburdened by the problems of our neighbor. In school they taught us that we are the mosaic to the US’s melting pot— aren’t we setting a good example of inclusion and diversity? Don’t we have welcoming immigration policies? Aren’t we above what is happening in the United States? It’s a sentiment that I’ve seen being bandied about in recent days. The trending hashtag #meanwhileincanada popped up and at first was being used to contrast us to our neighbors south of the border with viral images and videos like that of a moose taking a dip in somebody’s swimming pool— hah, good ol’ Canada eh?!
Fellow Canadians, talk to your Black neighbors and you may learn that this “friendly Canadian” label is nothing but a dangerously convenient facade. We cannot grow complacent because we think we’re “not racist in Canada”. There are many things I love about our country, but we have a long way to go and it is always our responsibility to educate ourselves the best we can about the realities in Canada so that we can actively work toward a better tomorrow.
Below I have collected some information on articles, books, and videos with anti-Black racism in Canada in mind. However, there is a further wealth of information available on how individual and systemic racism is very much alive in Canada in many forms. Such racism is rooted in our colonial past and impacts many people every day, including people of colour, immigrants, and our Indigenous peoples.
Note to reader: I am a white Canadian woman and I am not in any way an authority on racism in Canada. I hope that these resources may serve as a jumping-off point for personal learning and an introduction to some Black Canadian voices. These resources are not exhaustive; please feel free to share any resources that you feel should be added.
Jen Katshunga; Notisha Massaquoi; Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit, City of Toronto; Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI); and Justine Wallace for Behind the Numbers: Black Women in Canada
Today, more than ever, urgent and sustained action is needed to tackle persistent and profound barriers to change and to challenge entrenched norms and stereotypes. Success will only be achieved if Black women are equal partners and leaders in this work.
Claire Loewen for CBC, 2020: As Premier Denies Systemic Racism, Black Quebecers Point to their Lived Experience
They put their knee on my neck, like they did to George Floyd.Alexandre Lamontagne
Benjamin Shingler & Simon Nakonechny for CBC, 2020: Montreal Protestors Aim to Drive Home Message Racism is a Problem Here Too
For years we said there’s racial profiling in Montreal, and now it’s a message that everybody has to hear us.Will Prosper
Eternity Martis for Chatelaine, 2020: 5 Black Women Talk About Their Lives In Canada– Past, Present and Future
In Canada, Black women are still discriminated against in the healthcare system, where we face alarmingly high rates of maternal death. We continue to be victims of police and state violence, and in the workplace, continue to be paid less than both white men and white women.Eternity Martis
Annette Henry for The Conversation, 2017: Dear White People, Wake Up: Canada is Racist
Those who do not experience racism may be unaware of how it functions in Canada — perniciously and insidiously.Annette Henry
Carl James for The Conversation, 2019: The Crisis of Anti-Black Racism in Schools Persists Across Generations
Black students say they are “being treated differently than their non-Black peers in the classrooms and hallways of their schools.” They say there is still a lack of Black presence in schools. There are few Black teachers, the curriculum does not adequately address Black history and schools lack an equitable process to help students deal with anti-Black racism.Carl James
Janaya Khan for Flare, 2017: Don’t Kid Yourself, White Nationalism is on the Rise in Canada Too
Canadians have a deep investment in seeing themselves as more enlightened than their counterparts to the south, as if racism and bigotry suddenly stop at the U.S./Canada border.Janaya Khan
Stacy Lee Kong for Flare, 2018: If It Feels Like Racism In Canada Is Getting Worse, That’s Because It Is”
Every time we hear about another example of blatant racism, we tend to be shocked, as if we’ve collectively agreed that sure, things happen here—but it’s nowhere near as bad as it is there. That’s B.S., obviously.Stacy Lee Kong
Tayo Bero for The Guardian, 2019: Canada is Overdue For a Reckoning With Its Anti-Black Racism
Young black men across the country have spoken for years about being surveilled and criminalized simply for existing.Tayo Bero
Andray Domise for Hazlitt, 2015: White Supremacy is Not a Black Problem
The message now is that white comfort is worth more than black lives. This has to change.Andray Domise
Maija Kappler for Huffington Post, 2020: Racism in Canada is Ever Present, But We Have a Long History of Denial
It’s tempting for Canadians to fall back on the idea that we’re not as racist as Americans…Maija Kappler
Byron Armstrong for Now Toronto, 2018: Dining While Black
Sometimes, I just want to order an artisanal handcrafted lobster roll without getting the feeling that it’s somehow unusual for me to do so. Or be able to sit in a dimly lit speakeasy while a gentleman in a bow tie and handlebar moustache concocts a $16 cocktail for me, without becoming more of the show than the actual show.
Now the controversy over Hong Shing restaurant comes along to remind us that it’s not just white-owned establishments practicing discrimination against us, but also other people of colour.Byron Armstrong
Neil Price, Radheyan Simonpillai, and Chaka V. Grier for NowToronto, 2019: Black Futures Month: Five Torontonians want to make 2019 the year for change
I want Black children and youth to no longer feel ashamed of crumbling school buildings, or be afraid to drink the water, or experience unbearable physical and distractive cognitive challenges due to sweltering heat in their classrooms. The nearly $4 billion backlog in school repairs must be fixed. Schools must become fully accessible, infused with colour, arts and green space.
In my dream, roaming the mall for a new pair of jeans or for a knapsack is no longer hazardous for our kids’ health. Shopping while Black is a carefree experience. So is interviewing for a job while Black.Jill Andrew
Robyn Maynard for The Star, 2020: It’s Long-Past Time to Talk About Policing of Black Women in Canada
It is clear that combating the violent policing of Black women remains an urgent necessity for all of us.Robyn Maynard
Various Authors for The Star, 2020: Racism Exists in Canada: These are the Stories From People Who Have Lived It As Eyes Turn On The U.S. After George Floyd Death in Minneapolis
(Monday) morning, the day before I earn my Doctor of Medicine degree from the University of Toronto, I awoke to an online comment which stated “I would never let her treat me.”Dr. Chika Oriuwa, MD
Vicky Mochama for The Star, 2018: Systemic Racism in Canada is Real, Folks
Questions about systemic racism are less about our personal interactions but rather about how the institutions that govern our lives have internalized and implemented racism.Vicky Mochama
Desmond Cole for Toronto Life, 2015: The Skin I’m In: I’ve Been Interrogated By Police More Than 50 Times– All Because I’m Black
There’s this idea that Toronto is becoming a post-racial city, a multicultural utopia where the colour of your skin has no bearing on your prospects. That kind of thinking is ridiculously naïve in a city and country where racism contributes to a self-perpetuating cycle of criminalization and imprisonment.Desmond Cole
The Skin We’re In: A Year of Black Resistance and Power
Desmond Cole, 2020
Until We Are Free: Reflections on Black Lives Matter In Canada
Rodney Diverlus, Sandy Hudson & Syrus Marcus Ware (Editors), 2020
Talking About Identity: Encounters in Race, Ethnicity, and Language
Carl James & Adrienne Shadd (Editors), 2001
In The Black: My Life
B. Denham Jolly, 2017
Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada From Slavery to the Present
Robyn Maynard, 2017
Blank: Essays and Interviews
M. NourbeSe Philip, 2017
Queer Returns: Essays on Multiculturalism, Diaspora, and Black Studies
Rinaldo Walcott, 2016
Desmond Cole for CBC, 2017: Firsthand Episode 2: The Skin We’re In
Acclaimed journalist Desmond Cole explores what it is to be Black in 21st century Canada. Do Black Lives Matter here?
Roaring River Films, 2019: Our Dance of Revolution: The History of Toronto’s Black Queer Community
Our Dance of Revolution tells the story of how Black queer folks in Toronto faced every adversity, from invisibility to police brutality, and rose up to become a vibrant, triple-snap-fierce community.
Yamikani Msosa for VAW Learning Network, 2018: Roots and Resistance: Sexual Violence and Anti-Black Racism
Roots and Resistance is a webinar that explores in depth conversations about the connections between sexual violence, state violence, and healing from collective and individual sexual abuse and trauma for Black survivors.