Research Update: Colouring Outside the Lines
Note: this is excerpted from the December 2020 edition of our “Research Update” publication. The Edmonton Social Planning Council, in collaboration with our volunteers, strives to provide stakeholders and community members with up-to-date reviews, prepared by our volunteers, on recently published social research reports and publications.
Reviewed by Jayme Wong
Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change (COP–COC) is an Ontario-based network of groups that collaborate to create community-based resources and tools that address and combat ethno-racial inequality and oppression. In January 2019, COP–COC submitted Proposed Framework for a New-Anti-Racism Strategy for Canada during a national consultation on a new Canadian Anti-Racism Strategy, informed by a community consultation that same month.
The proposal provides a framework for a new Anti-Racism Strategy through manageable and attainable calls to action. Among the key principles and themes that highlight the need for an intersectional approach to policy-making, the proposal also includes 12 calls to action urging the federal government to make timely and specific changes to the New Anti-Racism Strategy. These actions address (p. 3):
(1) racial inequalities in the labour market
(2) the racialization of poverty
(3) systemic racism in the criminal justice system and access to justice
(4) racial discrimination in violence against women
(5) racial discrimination in national security
(6) systemic racism in child welfare
(7) health inequities
(8) inequities in accessing to basic necessities
(9) inequities in access to education
(10) systemic racism in immigration legislation and policy
(11) systemic racism in citizenship legislation and policy
(12) combating hate crimes
The strategy takes an intersectional approach to anti-racism advocacy, suggesting that women, LGBTQ+ and two-spirited peoples, and people with disabilities face disproportionate institutional discrimination and oppression. The proposal acknowledges the historical and ongoing racism that affects Indigenous communities and communities of colour, prompting the need for a new Anti-Racism Strategy. Although many of the calls to action are directed towards the federal government, the proposal notes that “systemic racism and racial discrimination know no jurisdictional bounds” (p. 3). COP–COC highlights the importance for all levels of government—from federal to municipal—to work together to enforce and enact the new Anti-Racism Strategy.
One recurring ask within the proposal urges the federal government to “require all Departments, Ministries, Divisions and other relevant institutions to collect and track disaggregated data with respect to ethno-racial background, and use this data to develop strategies for addressing systemic racism” (p. 4). Disaggregated data would show a trend in who is more likely to rely on government social services due to disproportionate rates of impoverishment and food insecurity, and who is also more likely to be discriminated against by pre-existing legal practices and their often biased practitioners. The publication of the collected data would act as an accountability and transparency measure by the institutions that had previously been gate-keepers to such information and excluded people of colour from the process.
An important factor mentioned at the beginning of the proposal is that Indigenous communities and communities of colour can and should be able to choose their own approaches to the Anti-Racism Strategy. While this acknowledgement is only mentioned very briefly, it is important that the group has taken the time to acknowledge sovereignty and autonomy within communities of colour, and especially for Indigenous communities who have not had their rights respected by colonial institutions. The acknowledgement allows opportunities for negotiation and additions from Indigenous communities and communities of colour who wish to join in the process.
There are a few calls to action which seem rather brief—one of which is the call to address inequities in access to education. The proposal only mentions funding more post-secondary scholarship programs for racialized and marginalized communities, and allowing Indigenous communities to regain control over their educational practices. There is no mention that people of colour face multiple barriers—not simply financial—when accessing education. Just a few of the unmentioned barriers may include language, gender, or culture. Furthermore, “[transferring] educational matters from pre-school to post-secondary education to local Indigenous authorities” (p. 11) does not fully address the traumatic experiences that Indigenous students have faced and continue to face in the colonial education system.
Overall, the proposal is quite effective in painting a picture of what the future could be if an intersectional lens was used in all policy-making. The two most convincing tenets of this proposal are (1) the involvement of all racialized and marginalized in policy-making decisions, and (2) urging public institutions to be more transparent about their practices. Canada still has a long way to go with its Anti-Racism Strategy, but if even one call to action within COP–COC’s proposed framework is achieved, the country would be that much closer to eradicating racism.
Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change. (2019). Proposed framework for a new anti-racism strategy for Canada. https://ocasi.org/sites/default/files/PROPOSED_COP-COC_FRAMEWORK_for_Anti-Racism_Strategy_Jan_2019_0.pdf
ABOUT THE RESEARCH REVIEWER:
Jayme Wong graduated from the University of Lethbridge in 2014 with a BA in English and Philosophy, and more recently graduated from the University of Alberta in 2020 with an MA in English and Film Studies. She currently works at a local non-profit, The Learning Centre Literacy Association.