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Black Lives Matter – Canada: Do we need to Educate New Canadians?

Black Lives Matter – Canada: Do we need to Educate New Canadians?

Did you know in Canada?
The first recorded black person to set foot on land now known as Canada was a free man named Mathieu da Costa. Travelling with navigator Samuel de Champlain, de Costa arrived in Nova Scotia sometime between 1603 and 1608.

Black slaves arrived in Canada only towards the end of the seventeenth century. In the early 17th century, French colonizers in New France began the practice of chattel slavery. People were treated as personal property that could be bought, sold, traded and inherited. The first slaves in New France were Indigenous peoples a large percentage of whom came from the Pawnee Nation located in present-day Nebraska, Oklahoma and Kansas.  Slavery continued after the British conquest of New France in 1763. The territory was eventually renamed British North America, and Black enslaved people came to replace Indigenous enslaved people. Compared to the United States, enslaved people made up a much smaller population in British North America.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission in 2020:
“The Code prohibits discrimination on several grounds related to race. These include mainly the grounds of colour, ethnic origin, ancestry, place of origin, citizenship and creed (religion). Depending on the circumstances, discrimination based on race may cite race alone or may include one or more related grounds. Each of these grounds is also discussed separately below. The ground of race can encompass the meaning of all of the related grounds, and any other characteristic that is racialized and used to discriminate. In practice, all grounds that may have been factors in a person’s experience should be cited if a human rights claim is made.”

Although it may be helpful to many, this long definition does not address the discrimination that occurs to Black Lives, even from those who can claim discrimination under the same act.

I remember in 2014, the case of a young black man who spoke up about his treatment at a Chinese Restaurant.
You can read this racist act that occurred in Toronto if you Google Emile Wickham.

“In the early hours of May 3, 2014, Emile Wickham and three of his friends went out to eat in downtown Toronto for Wickham’s birthday. The group chose to celebrate at Hong Shing Chinese Restaurant, a mainstay in the area for nearly two decades, in part because they saw other people eating there at that hour.

The group was seated and ordered food, but a waiter told them they would need to pay upfront for their meals before they could be served. It was the restaurant’s policy, he said.”

Wickham and his friends discovered they were the only ones that had been asked to provide money upfront. Also the only black diners at the restaurant. A Toronto Star profile of the restaurant published in 2017 named Mr. Li as the son of Ron and Ann, an immigrant couple from Guangzhou, China who opened the restaurant in 1997.

This went to the Human Rights Commission of Ontario in November 2015, and Mr. Wickham in 2018 received $10,000. Roger Love, a lawyer with the Human Rights Legal Support Centre who represented Mr. Wickham, said, “it’s a common misconception that anti-black racism occurs only at the hands of white individuals and that many cases his office handles to deal with racialized perpetrators.”

“Unfortunately, there’s the notion that some races are more valued than others and often the idea is that blacks are the least worthy,” he said. “So whoever else feels like they’re above a black person on that hierarchy can subject black people to anti-black racism.”

“Toronto lawyer Selwyn Pieters said he doesn’t know how prevalent experiences like Mr. Wickham’s are because though it is widely reported that black people experience profiling, they face many barriers in seeking justice: the human-rights complaints process can be difficult to navigate, lawyers are expensive and cases that deal with race are often very difficult to establish and prove, he said.”

How do we teach Anti-Black Racism to New Canadians? Racism has a long history in Canada, starting with our Indigenous First Nations. New Canadians can learn the stigmas that exist, and it is this concern that I raise the question: how do we educate New Canadians before they get these learned behaviours which they can learn from their interactions within the system and with other Canadians.

You can read Ontario’s, but there is nothing in this strategy that educates New Canadians. Perhaps Mr. Floyd’s murder in the USA, which has brought the message to Canada, can help all of us. This is a moment for all of us. If we do not make the needed changes, who will?

Maybe we do not need education for New Canadians but recognizing the United NationsInternational Decade for People of African Descent (2015–2024) to formally acknowledge that people of African descent represent a distinct group whose rights must be promoted and protected in Canada.
Promoting these rights and educating all Canadians that Anit Black Racism is long-standing and different from the wider understandings of Racism which is also painful. Listen to this tweet from

Cameron Welch who took to TikTok to share the rules his mom makes him follow as a young black man in America.  

I have heard the same rules given by Black Canadian parents to their children in Toronto.

After listening to Cameron Welch, and reading Canda’s history, I rest my case that Anti Black Racism is different from the Racism that I have experienced both Systemic and in my everyday life.

In Canada, we say that it is from the Bible that helped structure our laws due to the early settlers. The following states:
God cares how we treat each other because we’re all created in His image (Genesis 1:27). He makes no distinction between the inherent value of one race or ethnicity over another.

  • God cares about people regardless of their ethnicity, nationality, and social status (Deuteronomy 10:17-19).
 Apart from policing, let’s address Black Racism via the Social Determinants of health.
The Globe and Mail

Merle Jacobs

From Rangoon to London then to Canada, now home. Professor in Toronto. Research areas - health and equity, the nursing profession, Anglo Burmese culture Published in the areas of Nursing, health, racism

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