Minister of Canadian Heritage and Multiculturalism Pablo Rodriguez responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Friday October 19, 2018 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Feds consulting on national anti-racism strategy behind closed doors

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says people still face systemic racism in some communities

The federal government is consulting experts and community leaders ahead of a new national anti-racism strategy, but in a series of secretive meetings to avoid them turning into public shouting matches.

Four meetings have already been held — all in southern Ontario — and another 19 are to take place nationwide before the end of the year.

However, the government is not publicizing who attended, who will be at future meetings or even where those meetings are taking place. Participation is by invitation only.

There are still Canadian communities where people face systemic racism, oppression and discrimination, Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez said Friday.

The minister has not, however, directly explained why he told The Globe and Mail newspaper earlier this week that systemic racism was not “part of his vocabulary” and that Canada was not in fact a racist society.

READ MORE: Trudeau says anti-black racism exists in Canada

New Democrat MP Jenny Kwan asked Rodriguez this week multiple times in the House of Commons to explain and apologize for his comment, to which Rodriguez only said racism does exist in Canada.

The racism consultations follow a Commons committee study of systemic racism in Canada, which last winter recommended a national plan be developed with measurable goals.

The government quietly posted online information about the start of the consultations Oct. 15, along with an online survey members of the public can take. The questions touch on personal experiences with racism and whether the phenomenon exists in the justice system, with jury selection or even in how workplaces schedule holidays.

But there is no information about the consultations beyond that they will occur with “community members, leaders, experts, academics and stakeholders across Canada.”

“These meetings will not be open to the public in order to ensure that participants are able to have focused, meaningful and safe conversations on subjects that, for many, include reflecting on harmful experiences,” the website states.

The NDP argues the process is so secretive a number of groups that would want to take part didn’t even know the consultations had begun.

Last February, an anti-racism town hall hosted in Toronto by several Liberal MPs and members of the Ontario legislature ended up with a call to police. It was derailed by a number of people Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith says were white supremacists bent on shouting down speakers demanding a definition of Islamophobia.

“It was a jarring reminder of the work we still have to do in the name of equality when people are so willing to be so public in displaying their hate,” Erskine-Smith said in the Commons this week.

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

B.C. chiefs show solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs

Chiefs from around B.C. outside the Coastal GasLink pipeline route in Smithers show support.

Woman killed in head-on crash near Vanderhoof

RCMP say driver crossed the centre line and hit a loaded fuel tanker truck

RCMP to review actions at Wet’suwet’en pipeline protest camps

Senior Mountie says he hopes protests will be peaceful following deal with hereditary chiefs

‘Tripod’ delays access to Unist’ot’en camp

Social media rumours of cultural significance quashed, meaning police “exclusion zones” should end.

Hereditary chiefs negotiate injunction agreement

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs abide by interim injunction, but gate stays up. Still opposed.

Keep focus on helping Canadians at home, Trudeau tells MPs at start of meeting

Trudeau said the Liberals will offer Canadians hope amid issue like climate change and global tensions

Skaters stranded in Saint John, NB, amid storm on last day of championships

More than half of the flights out of the city’s airport were cancelled due to the weather

Call for tighter bail rules after Saudi sex-crime suspect vanishes

Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi was facing charges related to alleged sexual assault, criminal harassment, assault and forcible confinement of a woman

12 poisoned eagles found on Vancouver Island

Improper disposal of euthanized animal suspected

Olympic softball qualifier to be held in B.C.

Tournament is to be held Aug. 25 to Sept. 1

B.C. resident creates global sport training program

The 20 hour course teaches the science and application of interval training at the university level

B.C. VIEWS: Fact-checking the NDP’s speculation tax on empty homes

Negative-option billing is still legal for governments

May plans next move in Brexit fight as chances rise of delay

Some say a lack of action could trigger a ‘public tsunami’

Group challenges ruling for doctors to give referrals for services that clash with beliefs

A group of five Canadian doctors and three professional organizations is appealing

Most Read