Racism often captured headlines and took up space in public discourse in 2019 — but a new poll shows those discussions didn’t necessarily change Canadians’ opinions.
An Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of Global News found 49 per cent of Canadians don’t think racism is a serious problem in the country, while 43 per cent do.
Those numbers are similar to April findings, when 46 per cent said racism was a serious problem.
Sean Simpson, the vice-president of public affairs at Ipsos, told Global News that the poll was conducted to see whether key Canadian news events this year — including the federal election, videos and photos of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wearing blackface and Sportsnet’s firing of Don Cherry — changed opinions.
“It’s both good news and bad news,” Simpson said.
“The good news is that things don’t seem to be getting worse. The bad news is that there hasn’t been a lot of improvement.”
Simpson also pointed to the poll’s finding that nearly four in 10 Canadians feel that “white Canadians are under threat from immigration” — a number that’s unchanged from April.
“I think people hold their opinions and things that they see and hear from leaders or celebrities reinforces their own positions,” Simpson said.
“Either they agree with what’s being said, or they disagree with what’s being said, but it doesn’t necessarily have impact or sway their own point of view.”
However, changing opinions on racism won’t happen overnight, noted Kathy Hogarth, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo, whose work focuses on marginalized populations in Canada.
“We can’t lose hope because our numbers aren’t changing as quickly as we want them to change,” she said.
“We need to continue having the conversation, and we cannot let the resistance to changing attitudes derail the attitudes about racism.”
Hogarth said Canadians have only begun to question issues such as racism in the justice and child welfare systems, and there’s much more to do.
“We’re only scratching the surface. We need to dig deeper to what are the pillars, what are the policies that are holding and breeding racism in place.”
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Amira Elghawaby of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network added there needs to be systemic change in order for the country to truly understand and eradicate racism.
“We know that in our education system, there is not enough work being done to really understand Indigenous experiences in the this country,” she said.
“We’ve seen cutbacks in different provinces around funding and supporting Indigenous study, as well as looking at various forms of discrimination — Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and anti-Black racism.
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“We need to have more in our curricula that reflects these experiences; they can’t sort of be tacked on as an afterthought.”
Elghawaby said that efforts to eliminate racism need to be supported by all level of government, citing the federal anti-racism strategy, which advocates will be closely monitoring.
“At the city level, as well, there’s much that can be done to ensure barriers to services, barriers to employment, and any type of hate that’s going on in our communities, we’re looking for solutions.”
An ongoing conversation
Conversations about racism need to go beyond just high-profile news events, both Elghawaby and Hogarth agreed.
“I think that in our media, we need to consistently and continually have these conversations,” Elghawaby said, noting Canadians did have meaningful conversations after the blackface and brownface incident and after Cherry’s firing — but then it faded.
“It sort of winds up being only when such a high-profile situation happens. It captures people’s attentions over a news cycle or two, then it fades from public consciousness.”
Poll: Racism is less of a problem now than before
“We need to talk about these issues — and they are difficult conversations, but we still need to be having them,” Elghawaby said.
Hogarth added having ongoing conversations on racism would also help tackle the issue of polarization.
“When we begin to take an issue that’s really impacting the lives of a minority of people and make it a discussion point, people feel threatened, they feel the need to get defensive,” she said.
“We need to keep the conversation going because we need to understand that it’s not only a Black issue, it’s not a brown issue, it’s not an Indigenous issue. It’s all of our issue.”
Even beyond news events, she noted, conversations need to happen throughout the year — not just focused on specific months, such as Black History Month.
“The conversation must remain alive,” she said.
This Ipsos poll on behalf of Global News was an online survey of 1,002 Canadians conducted between Dec. 3-5, 2019. The results were weighted to better reflect the composition of the adult Canadian population, according to census data. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Senegalese diplomat arrested by Quebec police owed former landlord more than $45,000
MONTREAL — The detention and alleged beating of a Senegalese diplomat by Quebec police last week occurred while a bailiff was attempting to seize property at her residence in connection with a court judgment against her.
Quebec’s rental board in June ordered Oumou Kalsoum Sall to pay a former landlord more than $45,000 for damage to a furnished home she occupied from Nov. 1, 2018, to Oct. 31, 2020. The tribunal found that she caused flooding that led to structural damage and that her use of the property forced its owner, Michel Lemay, to replace most of his furniture.
“The pictures speak for themselves,” Anne A. Laverdure, an administrative judge, wrote in her ruling. “The furniture is full of cockroaches. Pieces of furniture are scratched and scuffed. Some are missing. Everything is dirty.”
Laverdure awarded Lemay almost $13,500 for structural damage to the home and $23,000 to replace furniture. The administrative judge awarded Lemay another several thousand dollars for other damages.
Court records show that the debt was not paid and that a bailiff went to Kalsoum Sall’s residence in Gatineau, Que., across the river from Ottawa, on Aug. 2 to seize property in connection with the debt.
Kalsoum Sall is a first counsellor at the embassy of the Republic of Senegal in Ottawa, according to a federal government database of foreign delegations. The Senegalese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has claimed that the diplomat had to be hospitalized after being handcuffed and beaten by police.
Quebec’s independent police watchdog said Monday it opened an investigation into the incident. Gatineau police have said that they were called to the residence to assist a bailiff and that they arrested a woman with diplomatic status after she allegedly hit a police officer in the face, adding that she was tackled to the ground after allegedly biting another officer.
Global Affairs Canada has described the incident as “unacceptable,” adding that the 1961 Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations — which Canada has signed — gives diplomats immunity from any form of detention or arrest.
Gilles Rivard, a former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations and to Haiti, said that while he doesn’t know exactly what happened during the Aug. 2 incident, some diplomats can be aggressive because they believe there will be no consequences for their actions.
“They can be aggressive because they know that they have immunity, so they believe that they can do whatever they want,” he said in an interview Tuesday.
While police are not officially supposed to arrest a diplomat, Rivard said, it’s possible a police officer might handcuff an individual while they wait to confirm the person’s diplomatic status.
“But if after that, that person shows that she is a diplomat, or he is a diplomat, normally they have to be released,” he said.
In 2001, a Russian diplomat struck and killed a woman while driving in Ottawa. The Canadian government asked Russia to waive the diplomat’s immunity so he could be charged in Canada, but Russia refused, Rivard said, adding that Canada’s only option in that case was to expel the diplomat.
Rivard said he doesn’t think the Aug. 2 incident is serious enough to damage Canada’s very good relationship with Senegal.
The Senegalese Embassy in Ottawa did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment Tuesday afternoon. A call to the embassy was not answered.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2022.
Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press
Alberta awards prize to essay that argues women should pick babies over careers
EDMONTON — Alberta has awarded a prize to an essayist who argues the sexes are not equal and that women should pick babies over careers to avoid the province having to import more foreigners and risk “cultural suicide.”
The United Conservative government removed the essay from its legislature website Tuesday following an outcry of condemnation.
Jackie Armstrong-Homeniuk — Alberta’s associate minister for the Status of Women and also the contest organizer and one of the judges — also distanced herself from the entire affair.
“The essay contest was intended to reflect a broad range of opinions from young Alberta women on what democracy means for them,” Armstrong-Homeniuk said in a statement.
“While the essay in question certainly does not represent the views of all women, myself included, the essay in question should not have been chosen.”
Armstrong-Homeniuk was not made available for an interview.
Her office declined to say who else sat on the judging committee and how and why the essay was chosen.
The contest advertised that essays would be judged by Armstrong-Homeniuk and other legislature members but did not specify names.
Armstrong-Homeniuk was appointed to the cabinet post in June but has been the face of the contest since it was introduced in February.
The “Her Vision Inspires” contest challenged women ages 17 to 25 to describe their ideas for a better Alberta.
The top two essays suggest ways to get more women, and the public in general, involved in public life.
The third-place winner — identified only as S. Silver — won a $200 prize to be spent at the legislature gift shop.
Silver’s essay posits that the governing mission of humanity is to reproduce itself, but that Alberta has lost its way to instead pursue “selfish and hedonistic goals.”
The solution, she argues, is to acknowledge that “women are not exactly equal to men.”
Society, she writes, should celebrate and embrace the birthing role of women and stop pushing them to put off prime procreation years while they “break into careers that men traditionally dominate.”
She says the idea that Alberta can put off procreation and instead “import foreigners to replace ourselves … is a sickly mentality that amounts to a drive for cultural suicide.”
Opposition NDP critic Rakhi Pancholi said Armstrong-Homeniuk owes the public a full explanation of how this view was not condemned but honoured and rewarded.
“Sexism, racism, hate — this is not what any government should be celebrating, yet increasingly these views are becoming acceptable in this UCP government, and even now applauded,” Pancholi told reporters.
Pancholi zeroed in on the “cultural suicide” reference, likening it to 1930s Nazi Germany urging women to be baby vessels to propagate the Aryan race.
“This is an absolutely reprehensible claim. It is a nod to the racist replacement theory that drives white nationalist hate,” she said.
The contest was run through the legislative assembly office, which is headed up by Speaker Nathan Cooper.
Cooper’s office, in a statement, said the contest was conceived and administered by Armstrong-Homeniuk in her role as regional chair of the Commonwealth Women’s Parliamentarians group.
“Neither the Speaker’s office nor the legislative assembly office were involved with the selection of the essays in any capacity, including who was on the MLA panel judging the contest,” said the statement.
“As soon as the content of the third-place winner was brought to the Speaker’s attention, he immediately made the decision for the content to be removed.
“The content is abhorrent and does not reflect the views of the Speaker or the legislative assembly office.”
Three candidates in the race to replace Premier Jason Kenney as party leader and premier also took to Twitter to criticize the award.
“It’s a disgrace that an essay saying women are not equal to men won an award sponsored by government. Women, and their contributions, are equally valuable and amazing whether we are moms or not. Can’t believe this needs to be said,” wrote Rebecca Schulz.
Rajan Sawhney followed up, writing, “Agree, Rebecca. Same goes for the comments about ‘foreigners.’ Alberta is the proud home of people from all over the world — from Ukraine, to the Philippines, and everywhere in between.”
Leela Aheer said, “Well, I read 1st and 2nd place (essays). Those were great! I’m not sure how the 3rd essay elevates women.”
Lise Gotell, a women’s and gender studies professor at the University of Alberta, said the essay perpetuates an essentialist, sexist and racist point of view stemming from the long discredited and outdated concept that a women’s role is to reproduce as a bulwark against immigration.
“The fact that it was chosen says a great deal about the views on appropriate gender roles being advanced by this government,” said Gotell in an interview.
“This essay reads like something that quite frankly could’ve been written in the 19th century.”
— With files from Angela Amato in Edmonton
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2022.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press
Two miners trapped in Dominican Republic rescued with help from Canada
OTTAWA — Defence Minister Anita Anand says two miners who were trapped in an underground mine for 10 days in the Dominican Republic have been rescued with the help of Canada.
In a tweet on Tuesday, Anand said the Royal Canadian Air Force transported mining equipment to Santo Domingo following a request for assistance from the Dominican government.
Two miners with the Dominican Mining Corporation, known as Cormidom, had been trapped since July 31 in an underground mine.
According to a news release from the Dominican Republic Embassy on Saturday, Canada was expected to send over a mining excavation system made up of machines, tools and various rescue technologies.
The statement says the equipment was provided by Machines Roger International, a mining company based in Val-d’Or, Que.
Anand thanked the Royal Canadian Air Force personnel involved in the mission who arrived in the Dominican Republic on Sunday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2022.
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