Motion for an emergency debate on systemic racism

By: The Hon. Jim Munson

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Hon. Jim Munson: On behalf of the progressive Senate caucus, we fully support Senator Moodie’s call for an emergency debate. It’s interesting that we have to wait for a chief to get injured, somebody to get killed, to get our attention, as I said in a statement earlier.

It has been a bit of a scramble putting all of these notes together in supporting the call for this debate. Senator Plett talked about four hours; well, four hours is a good start.

In your ruling, Your Honour, in reference to Senator Tkachuk, when he called for an emergency debate on February 6, 2018, you ruled in favour. It was a debate on expanding the Trans Mountain Pipeline. You said in your ruling that, of course, having a debate would not preclude an inquiry. I think that’s an important point to make.

When it comes to systemic racism or institutionalized racism, we know in this country that it’s very prevalent everywhere: hiring in the public service, hiring in the private sector, in the arts, in sports, in institutions perhaps like this. I believe we have to deal with this directly.

I find it interesting that, as we start off this argument to have this debate, it’s fitting that 30 years ago, on June 18, 1990, Nelson Mandela stood in the other place and spoke to a joint parliamentary sitting and he spoke of a free and inclusive South Africa. Today we need to speak about a free and inclusive Canada. There have been recent polls that have shown 61% of Canadians are certain or almost certain that there is systemic racism in this country. I worry about and I am concerned what the other 39% are thinking at this time.

If we want to look at systemic racism, and if you agree to a debate on systemic racism, Your Honour, I’m sure I have lots of notes to talk about this, but when we talk about other senators not being here, we have been able to speak for other senators. I know other senators have spoken for absent senators in other groups. There’s a good 35 or 40 of us here today, and, as I said at the beginning of my arguments, it’s a really good start. We have to get at this and look at this seriously.

Just think about it. Systemic racism is about white superiority and power in all aspects of our lives. It’s what prevents anyone who is not white from having equal access to a successful life. We are most often not really aware of our racist behaviour, which is called “unconscious bias.”

With that, Your Honour, I leave it with you to make your decision, but if it’s not now, when? Thank you very much.

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