Racism and the Law in Canada is a uniquely controversial topic.

Racism and the Law in Canada is a uniquely controversial topic. To investigate racism and the law in particular institutional racism, which bears a close resemblance to systemic racism we will have to examine the politics of the country and process how the laws in Canada either support or discourage the operation of this insidious form of racism. Is it discriminatory? How does it affect us in Canada, if at all and how is it addressed by law and society? We will discover how these laws are recognized outside of Canada and in comparison how this issue is reflected in Canadian law and policies.

I will also from the onset refer to common place knowledge and language that makes much of my discussion and thoughts relevant to explain the language and comments that I have to make. Suffice to say, I do this to establish a precedent that explains this form of racism as embedded and sanitized. As you, the reader cannot deny or prove except by association through context and general knowledge gained from education, media and life experiences. While cultural knowledge, that identifies what is common knowledge may be varied and misscommunicated, through thought, imagination or opinion. Nonetheless, it is crucial to understand, what is common place in society, to allow institutional racism to evolve.  In as much as institutional racism is so whitened in our culture and accepted without question or thought.

Institutional racism is all forms of racism where any racial group can be denied their rights, their benefits and receive disparate treatment within specific institutions. Sociologists divide Institutional racism, as to identify three sub forms of racism due to the complexity of racism. Definitions, exist that are exacting and scholarly in as much as a precise manner to remove any deeper reaction than that of the mind. People express racism emotionally but whitening and sanitizing seem to only incur a rational response that may be associated with only the way we think, versus a physical emotional response.

Personally-mediated racism requires certain social attitudes that reflect racially-prejudicial action or biased opinions concerning your perceived abilities, motives and intentions.

Then there is racial discrimination studied as the stereotyping of behavior that is, disrespectful, suspicious, devaluating, and dehumanizing of a person or their race either by acts that omit or deny the person or the race.

  •               Racially-stigmatized people, absorb Internalized racism allowing for negative perceptions to manifest as low self-esteem. This racism is manifested through self loathing of your own skin color, in non-white communities or self-devaluation through the acceptance of racial slurs and rejection of your ancestral culture. It creates feelings of deep inability and desperation that are linked to high risk health practices, as a rejection of and comparison to what is expressed as Whiteness.  Richard Dyer writes in the Matter of Whiteness, that whiteness is only evident when others refer to you as being white, otherwise, whites see themselves as just being the human race. All others are differentiated by color and seem to speak as a race not as a human being as that category is filled by being white.

Forty years ago, Canada adopted multiculturalism as an official policy, so investigating the existence of intuitional racism in Canada now is a worthy task. Canadian media has made much of the following information making it known as common knowledge and I establish that it is commonplace so as to ensure it is understood as ordinary, acceptable and diluted into our culture. It is challenging to discriminate against racism, if it appears not to, ‘exist’. To investigate our own culture while living within, an invisible process makes it all seem ordinary and therefore commonplace.   We never question its legitimacy, its appropriateness or origin, as we are brain washed into accepting as it is so, as we, as in Canada or Canadians or the people of Canada say it is so. I am a New Canadian and I have heard this rhetoric for years. This propaganda is everywhere, on the news, in my school, my classes, my job, and it is very ubiquitous, that until now I never questioned its authenticity. Bravo, to Canada’s policy makers in making this a unique form of racism invisible. I am ashamed to admit I am one of those, who look down on my own people as they are one of those other people. Yet, these are my race and my family, but I have become Canadian. I am different from them and separate and what my extended family goes through, does not concern me as I am Canadian. I sound Canadian, I feel Canadian and revel in my perceived whiteness. I had no idea that I was not, white. My skin tone is white but according to “whiteness” I am other than white.  Canadian federal policy has many diversification laws created to apparently make any form of racism a non reality.

Institutional racism is thought of as being invisible, as it is embedded in the society or culture or corporation and its appearance is sanitized and whitened. By this term of embedded I mean, policies were created to include or exclude based on a companies’ rationale and the use of criteria does not have to be racially expressed but motivated to disqualify applicants or refuse services. I will explain sanitized as I perceive it to mean, as the use of language codes that dissipates any emotional charge or physical reality, that denies that a remark or action is racist. It is therefore sanitized. Much of the language used in this essay is sanitized, its’ cerebral, sophisticated and diminishing.

  •               From my own experience with job searches and applications, I collected a mental file on how many ways I could be denied or discriminated against, without any legal ramification or issue. I too, use these when I want to make a selection in my work and hire someone. I have learnt the Canadian way.  These sanitized, catch phrases can be used for example. Only qualified applicants will be contacted or you failed to qualify for this position or application. No specific reason is necessarily given or if it is given. It’s written in profound legalese in fine print as a reference to subsection of article in relationship to company bylaw, random number of order. Therefore it’s embedded.   Racism can be deemed as human nature, we don’t always need to explain or reveal why we have likes or dislikes, we shrug or avoid, or deny and hence what is intuitional racism is visibly opaque and dissolves in to culture and experience.

We can politely and with deep respect to another, offer the courtesy but the language only conveys the codes of ethic and civility. I am by nature very polite and my tone can be one of dismissal and I, Anahita Sima, can express my own racial or personal prejudice in this manner. “I am not comfortable with this situation.” And that is often enough to disengage from explaining why. Plus to go further, I can say, “My reasons are private. Or in regards to work, I can say or they don’t reflect our standards of employment” There fore I am seen as following policy, I have not expressed any legally based racism or any bias. But my responses are embedded with it. It is after all my Human Nature.

The Public image of Canada appears to be one of a tolerant society as Canada’s world media image makes it so, but privately it is not as it would appear. Much is hidden in its past. Richard Dyer states, “Racial Imagery is central to the organization of the modern world,”  “everyone in this social order has been constructed in our own political imagination as a racialised subject’ so as  ‘to make visible what is rendered invisible when viewed as the normative state of existence: the (white) point in space from which we tend to identify difference’ An important statement makes this very clear, being white is a dominant racial position that leads to it being invisible as its very commonplace. Whiteness cannot be seen until, white people sees its own power and then considers it to be strange. How this issue of whiteness, is realized is through the dominance it plays in the formatting of all policies and laws. An example of this is comes from, Peggy McKintosh, who writes that, “Whites are taught to think that their lives are ideal, so that when we or they work for another’s benefits, this work reflects ways in which we can make them, more like us. In other words white. It is so inherent as to be completely invisible.”

Institutional racism dominates all public and private bodies, as in corporations, and universities, and is reinforced by the actions of traditionalist, and newcomers. I describe it as, the monkey see and you the monkey do situation, if you are taught by a conformist to behave, think and act in a distinct manner, you as the new kid on the block, so to survive and flourish, you have to act the same way. You may personally and privately recognize it as racism but since publically it does not exist, you absorb it as a non reality.

The challenge in identifying institutionalized racism is to recognize the identifiable culprit. The collective actions of a population, creates Invisibility. The language used to describe this insidious racism, appears to be sophisticated in concept and vocabulary. The intent is to continually bury it in educated jargon based philosophy and continue to make Intuitional racism a study versus a reality.

The literature that supports this comes from many sources but in summary they all state the same things. I will refer to David Gilborn in his work, Racism and Reform: new ethnicities /old equalities. In this article he refers to Britain under Prime Minister Thatcher where the UK, adopted an education policy and a deracialised discourse. I will pause here to reflect that this same language is seen all over Canadian references to Intuitional racism, its deracialised and the discussions go on to insist in that verbage. If a law maker as in Margaret Thatcher says so, it is so as much as Canadian policymakers insist that it is so. Once that happens, it is invisible, sanitized and deniable. No one is ever held personally accountable as it’s a law and it, racialism disappears. I understand that, when changes are made that become commonplace, and affect policy, and that policy is implemented for a period of time over years, it assists in the issues, being viewed as invisible, embedded and sanitized.
Institutional racism is not xenophobic bigotry, simply by the existence of systemic policies and common place practices that hold non-white racial and ethnic groups at a disadvantage compared to the institutions non-colored as in white persons. Examples can be racial profiling by white police officers in the use of language that employs racial epithets, (e.g. its Towel head for Turban wearers) and the miss-representation of racial groups in the media, barring employment and professional development. For instance, have you heard mention in Canada of a First Nation prime ministerial elect? If not, why has this never been considered? Could this be considered an example of Institutional racism at play?

As Canada is vague about this situation, questions at this time can only be posed and not answered. Mia Rabson, reports that “a half-century later, enfranchisement has improved the political influence of Canada’s aboriginal peoples but with low voter participation, significant under-representation in most governments and social conditions on reserves mimicking that of Third World nations, the impact of enfranchisement on Canadian First Nations has been questionable.”

“It didn’t make much of a difference,” says aboriginal historian Daniel Paul. “There was an expectation it might be something positive, but I don’t think people were anticipating a big change. There was a huge mistrust of the system.”

What occurred recently as reported by Mia Robson is understood by sociological investigators.  Sociology distinguishes between institutional racism and structural racism. The first centers on the means and practices within an institution, the second on the interactions that produce racialzed outcomes against non-white people.

Structural racism uses system theory to understand the interactions among institutions and people and rejects reductionist thought.  By this I mean instead of classifying under preexisting stereotypical language, as seen as it associates race with intelligence, for example this following sentence is reductionist thinking, White people rate Blacks and Latinos, as less intelligent and likely to engage in criminal activities. There is a mutual, cumulative causation instead of a single issue, its clumped together to create systemic  racism, if you are a member of a Black / Latin race you are below average intelligence requiring a specific classification.

Therefore, by taking away the summary and linking of  reductionist thinking, the system’s approach for structural radicalization questions whether race or social class is more important and answers it as the interaction, between race and social class, and their consequences upon institutional design and institutional meaning. Hence as we examine, Canada’s First Nations legacy of Institutional Racism we see the past and the future interconnect. Claire Hutchings writes in Canada’s First Nations: A Legacy of Institutional Racism, “that our history in respect to the treatment of Aboriginal people is deplorable. Culturally superior attitudes of the ‘white’ race led to a cultural depression and a diminishing of Aboriginal values.

Canada by denying the First Nations culture and languages, and outlawing their spiritual practices weakened the identity of Canadian Aboriginal peoples. It has to be understood that the result of these actions caused, the erosion of socio-economic and political systems of our Canadian Aboriginal people and nations.  As with the article by Mia Rabsan, Hutchins emphasizes, the standard of Aboriginal peoples in Canada is less than of those of non-Aboriginals. Presently, aboriginal life expectancy is lower than national average and less first nations people graduate and they experience higher unemployment. Their incomes are lower and they receive fewer promotions and remain the poorest in Canada. In Canada, suffering is linked to race, as experienced by the aboriginal people. (Claire Hutchings)

Canada is known for, and prides itself on, the great variety of cultures, ethnicities, races and religions which live within its borders. We are taught in primary school that Canada is a ‘melting pot, a cultural mosaic’ where diversity and ethnic self-identification are promoted and encouraged in contrast to our Southern neighbors, where people are Americans first and last. It is seemed as joke, that we as Canadians are always on top, we are above the 41st parallel that divides Canada from the US and we perceive ourselves as perhaps on top or superior in our race relations, we are after all the world’s largest nation and voted by the United Nations as the best country in the world to live. So with this accolade, how could we have racism, it is not possible. We are Canadian living in the true north strong and free.

In a 1996 census approximately one third of Canada’s 31 million plus population did not choose to be categorized as ‘Canadian’ when asked to describe their ethnic origin and only 5 million identified themselves as solely Canadian.

Canada, being the first country to adopt a global policy on multiculturalism and criticizes racism and defends Human rights. Canada is lauded internationally as a model of cultural diversity and its progressive anti-racist policies. Racism remains an issue in spite of Canada’s achievements in cultural pluralism and anti-discriminatory practices.

Simply as it has disappeared, to test this, I took a vote at work and I asked this question, “Do you today believe that racism does not exist and that it affects millions of people everyday?”  9 out of 10 people responded as racism does not exist, in Canada.

I read that, Canada’s aboriginal issue sullies its human rights agenda..  As Felice notes, “modern states often have been built by powerful groups at the expense of the less powerful, with racial prejudice underlying the … process.” The established inequity in socio-economic conditions between Aboriginals and the “human race” in Canada is understood. But the ignoring of the impact of the processes of conquest, colonialism, state building, migration and economic development has only strengthened the institutional racism which accompanied them. The aboriginal people are more Canadian than any other Canadian, as legally they are titled, the First Nation and yet Institutional racilization is still an issue in this community. 50 years after they were granted the right to vote and 40 years after Canada declared itself the utopian ideal of Multiculturalism. Yet its First Nations people are still a burning example of this issue. Institutional racism exists in Canada and due to its long term and very dangerous effects, a race of people, Canadian people are still racilized. Even the use of the term First Nations people is distinctly racist. As its use, is exclusionary to a specific race. We are all born equal but yet some of us are more equal than the rest. Oh Canada!

During Canada’s first national internment operations of 1914-1920 thousands of Ukrainians and other Europeans were known as “enemy aliens,” because of ‘who’ they were and where they had come from. Some internees were Canadian born and suffered economic losses which included the confiscation of their wealth. Some of this wealth is still in the Canadian Government’s treasury.

Canada puts a friendly face to this deplorable state of institutional racism and practices that which is only preached as a slogan of inducement. Canada falls short of many a lofty goal.

Written by Cristoph De Caermichael


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