Busting the Equality Myth with Activism

Racism today versus forty years ago has been both documented and undocumented. Three panelists from the Chinese Canadian National Council for Social Justice paved the way for activism when they first fought the fake news of misrepresentation on CTV’s W5 forty years ago, when their images were repurposed on CTV to induce and incite the xenophobia of foreigners “taking away jobs” from the native born. Have those attitudes changed? According to a Spring 2019 syndicated Pollara Strategic Insights study, a third (33%) of Canadians express negative views of at least one other group in society, with the highest intolerance expressed towards transgender people, non-Christians, and recent immigrants, followed by Indigenous people, Christians, non-heterosexuals, and visible minorities.

Yesterday five forerunners in the fight against racism sought a public consultation to compare the roots and outcomes of activism then versus now right from the days of the head tax on Chinese immigrants between 1885 to 1923 and even after with the Chinese immigrant Exclusion Act until 1947. The racism across different ethnocultural groups may have become more subtle and sophisticated over time as populations fragment, determinedly mix and match and clump towards individualist capitalist identities creating new rifts and divides across generations and within groups, but its brutality no less severe or worse when it translates to socioeconomic disenfranchisement as illustrated by the Colour of Poverty fact sheets. According to data from the Statistics Canada 2016 census, over a fifth of Ontario’s communities of colour are low-income status individuals.

Recent immigrants had a low-income rate of 31.4%, more than twice the rate of 12.5% for non-immigrants. Racialized immigrants are most likely to experience the highest low-income rates.

Top communities of colour living in poverty in Ontario

It was agreed that every voice and effort will count in the fight against inequity and racism. Pentecostal clergy may throw up their hands with righteousness and say “forgive and forget”, and then “God bless you”. Many more will puzzle over where to even begin. Intent will always be eclipsed by impact (even and especially where intent is fuelled by wilful or unwitting ignorance). But to institute any change we must begin with impact. Forty years from now what do we want? No beginning is false if the effort is well determined. The coalitions we build today need not take away from our core values and identities (rather they will augment and enhance us) as we go about seeking integrity, equity and reconciliation for all those impacted disproportionately by poverty and the politics of exclusion.

Over half of Canada’s racialized people (52%) living in poverty live in Ontario. In Toronto, 62% of all persons living in poverty are from racialized groups.

Colour of Poverty.ca
Executive Director of Canadian Race Relations Foundation, Member of Ad-hoc Committee Against W5 and Founding Director of Chinese Canadian National Council Lilian Ma proposes next steps.

Check out more pictures below from the discussions as proponents Ryan Chan (Asia Law Society), Susan Eng LLB, LSM (Advocacy for the National Institute on Ageing), Alan Tai-Wai Li, M.D. (Regent Park Community Health Centre), Lilian Ma. B.Sc., Ph.D., LL.B. (Canadian Race Relations Foundation), Vince Wong, J.D., LLM (International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law) led an evening of passionate discussions to its next steps as they seek to build partnerships and coalitions with similar groups across the country. In their works is also a plan to develop a tool that will measure the racial injustice index across ethnocultural groups.

Allan Li, a leader in the Chinese Canadian LGBTQ community talks about models of activism being the strongest among the weakest sections of society particularly those affected by HIV, the uninsured and immigrants.
Forty years ago and just as relevant today.

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