Do something about systemic racism, Canada!

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Dear Government of Canada,

Thank you for acknowledging that racism remains a problem in Canada; now what’s the plan? While there has been some progress in past years, if there is a lesson to be learned from recent events, it is the need for major and immediate policy reforms to compensate and enfranchise the people our system was built to condemn and ignore.

This petition calls for a comprehensive action plan from our government to combat racism and colonialism in Canada.

Racism is not simply about how individuals treat one another; it emerges from the way social and economic policy impacts certain groups. Canada’s legacy of colonialism and racism is fundamentally one of economic disenfranchisement; our system is purpose-built to keep indigenous people and people of colour poor and powerless, so white people can exploit their lands and labour. In order to adequately address racism, the Government of Canada must rethink how it redistributes wealth, not only to ensure that all Canadians have adequate food and shelter, but also to ensure that these marginalized communities have equal access to opportunity and are no longer held down by the system.

To address economic inequality, the Federal Government should immediately implement economic reform, including by implementing a universal basic income (or massively increase means-tested benefits) and as a corollary should increase taxes on the highest income earners. Until there is an adequate rebalancing, and the elimination of intergenerational poverty and subsistence living, our system will remain racist and elitist.

Similarly, in order to begin to address the problem of police officers mistreating and abusing the black and indigenous people they are meant to protect, Canada must reform the criminal justice system at its core, so that it is no longer a tool for the enforcement of systemic and economic inequality. This means a complete overhaul: decriminalizing all drug use, making alternative measures the only sentencing measures available for minor crimes, increasing the use of restorative justice, using community programming to assist offenders, removing excessive and impossible bail/probation conditions, eliminating barriers to work and travel for individuals with criminal records, and increasing legal aid so that low-income individuals can access adequate legal representation.

It is hard to adequately summarize everything that should be done in this letter. There are so many federal systems that need reform; the Indian Act and the government’s halfhearted approach to reconciliation; the exploitation of temporary foreign workers; and the indignities and inequities wrought by our immigration system; and the need to provide for true universal healthcare, including dental and prescription drugs, to name a few.

It is a lot to do. But unless you start accomplishing this type of serious policy reform, the problem of colonialism and racism in Canada will not improve.

You may have to battle against political expediency and special interests to get this done. But this government has already proven it can accomplish change quickly; look at the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit. There is a clear and evidence-based roadmap for improving our system; countless reports and recommendations from experts. The only thing missing is the political will.

Now is not the time for timidity. There is a moral imperative to act, and the people being harmed are begging us to do something. I sympathize that the Federal Government has been occupied by the global pandemic, and I appreciate its swift and thorough response. But as Canada begins to get a handle on the spread of the coronavirus, this government must take advantage of this moment in history to implement serious economic and social reform.

With the knowledge we have, the only right answer is change. Now.