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OP-ED: Anti-Racism Data Act will help to dismantle systemic racism

National Indigenous Peoples Day is an opportunity to celebrate B.C.’s historic Anti-Racism Data Act
People contribute to a hand painting during the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Special to Black Press Media

National Indigenous Peoples Day is an opportunity to celebrate B.C.’s historic Anti-Racism Data Act, which is the first of its kind to be co-developed with Indigenous Peoples and prepare for the work ahead to turn this legislation into results for Métis, First Nations, Inuit and other racialized people.

The legislation became law earlier this month and represents almost two years of work – listening and learning from racialized communities and working side-by-side with Métis and First Nations leadership and others to understand communities’ concerns.

Process matters. And the work to develop this legislation is building bridges between government and racialized communities. Together we are lifting the veil on the colonial biases and systemic racism that have hurt racialized people since time immemorial.

The new act marks a turning point for our province and will provide data on the irrefutable barriers facing racialized people.

Over the coming months, we will confirm the membership of a new anti-racism data committee to collaborate with government on implementing the legislation.

In late Fall, we are planning to begin collecting demographic data through a voluntary population survey. We know that better understanding the distinct cultures of Indigenous Peoples is an important step to supporting racialized communities, including Métis people.

Using distinctions-based language will be front and centre in the co-development of the survey.

The survey will be an important tool to understand the demographics of people living in B.C. and the services and supports they are using. The findings of this survey will be released in a public report next summer.

The Métis have lived in B.C. since the late 1700s and are proud of their distinct culture, traditions, and language. For too long, the Métis have been referred to as the forgotten people. Through partnerships like this, we can help ensure Métis, First Nations and racialized communities across B.C. are forgotten no more. We will ensure they are seen and heard.

As equal partners in the development of the legislation, it’s imperative that all Indigenous Peoples and racialized communities continue to partner in how demographic data is collected, stored and turned into action. When barriers are identified through data, we will be working with Indigenous partners, including Metis Nation BC, to address these challenges.

While this legislation is an important part of our work to build an anti-racist B.C., there’s much more to do. We won’t take our foot off the gas pedal. For example, next year, we will introduce the broader Anti-Racism Act, and we’re also developing an anti-racism action plan for kindergarten to Grade 12 and tackling anti-Indigenous racism in health care.

But it will take more than changes in government policy to dismantle systemic racism. We all have a role to play. It starts by looking within yourself and in your community. We owe it to each other to stand up against hate and racism whenever we see it. We need to continue to have open dialogue and uncomfortable conversations so we can all start to better understand each other. By doing this hard work together, we can build a better, more inclusive province for everyone.

– Rachna Singh is the Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives and Lissa Dawn Smith is the President of Métis Nation BC