Question Period: Systemic Racism

By: The Hon. Wanda Thomas Bernard

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Hon. Wanda Elaine Thomas Bernard: Honourable senators, my question is also for the Government Representative in the Senate.

Senator Gold, today marks exactly one year since the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. This murder was caught on camera by a brave young woman named Darnella Frazier. Since that video went public, we have witnessed a growing awareness about the violence and anti-Black racism faced by people of African descent across the world and here in Canada. During the past year, there have been a number of government, public and private sector commitments made to address systemic racism and anti-Black racism in Canada. There has also been backlash.

Senator Gold, after the year of global awakening about the pandemic of racism, we certainly acknowledge that some progress has been made by the Government of Canada to address systemic anti-Black racism. The motion to recognize August 1 annually as Emancipation Day and a number of specific budget allocations as part of the commitment to address the multi-generational effects of enslavement, segregation and systemic anti-Black racism are duly noted. However, there is a gap. Black Canadians have called on this government to publicly apologize for Canada’s role in the enslavement of African people and their descendants and the impact that history has on current-day systemic anti-Black racism.

Senator Gold, when will the government make this long overdue apology to African Canadians?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for raising this issue. The government is very well aware that Black history in Canada has not always been celebrated or indeed properly highlighted so that many Canadians, unfortunately, are not aware that Black people were once enslaved in the territory that is now Canada or how those who fought the enslavement of Black Canadians had to lay the foundation for a more inclusive and diverse society here in Canada. Thank you for noting the recognition of Emancipation Day — it’s a major step forward — and the budget measures that have been made as well to support Black initiatives, Black philanthropy and the like.

With regard to the specific plans of the government on your calls for an apology, that’s duly noted. I do not have the answer to your question. I will certainly make inquiries.

Senator Bernard: I would follow up and ask Senator Gold if he could make that inquiry and inform us of the response. There was a petition that was duly registered and tabled, but we’ve not had an apology. Thank you.

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