Anti-Black racism is ‘alive and well” in Canada

Mofaba Baker

Mofaba Baker, program director of the African  Canadian Legal clinic in Toronto, told the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in Geneva on Monday that Anti-Black racism is “alive and well” in all spheres of Canadian society.

In his submission to CERD, Baker  said that ” while Canada is often hailed as a beacon of human rights and multiculturalism, its legacy of slavery, segregation and anti-Black racism tells a different story.”

His submission was focussed on what he described as the ” three most glaring manifestations” of anti-Black racism currently facing African Canadians – child welfare, education and policing.

With respect to child welfare, Baker said that Black children in Canada are disproportionately referred to children’s aid societies by police, education and healthcare professionals.


He noted that in the city of Toronto, Black children account for 40.8 per cent of all children apprehended and placed in care by the regional children’s aid society, despite the fact that they make up only 8.5 per cent of the population.


He conceded  that “it is hard to thoroughly assess the subtle ways in which anti-Black biases manifest themselves throughout the child welfare system due to a lack of disaggregated data,.”


But he pointed out that one thing is clear:” It is necessary that child welfare workers view cultural differences as differences and not deficiencies and stop penalizing, misrepresenting and criminalizing poverty and the differences between our cultures.


Baker warned that “failure to recognize and appreciate cultural differences and to fully understand the socio-economic stressors which systemically result in African Canadians being poor, underemployed, undereducated and  involved  in  the  criminal  justice  system  essentially results in Canadian child welfare societies acting as a mechanism for the cultural assimilation and destruction of Black families.”


Dealing with education, Baker noted in his submission that  Black children are

” suffering at an alarming rate.”


He said ” they suffer from the lack of teacher support, as a result of being streamed into courses that preclude them from entering post-secondary education, from high suspension, expulsion and drop-out rates, from the failure of the educational system to understand the interplay between socio-economic and racial stressors and academic performance, and from the “adultification” of Black youth, particularly Black girls. ”


Baker noted that ” these various manifestations of anti-Black racism serve to produce poorly-educated Black students, thereby reinforcing inter- generational poverty, unemployment and often, incarceration.”


Discussing policing, Baker  noted that there have been an overwhelming number of reported instances of deadly police use of force against African Canadian men with mental health differences that have resulted in their ” unnecessary and unjustifiable death.


” For these Black men and many more like them, their first point of contact with the mental health system is through their interactions with the police,”


” This is unacceptable,” he said in his submission.


He explained that the barriers to accessing mental health care are” disproportionately felt “by African Canadians, with wait times twice as long as their White counterparts.


“For Black men, the risk they face when confronted by police is elevated if they have mental health differences and are in crisis.


“Failure to provide resources and treatment to them is tantamount to a death sentence at the hands of police.”


Baker  said that Canada’s current Prime Minister has promised he would “Make Real Change Happen.


” After 300 years, our community has not realized change; in fact, the situation is critical for African Canadians.”


Baker expressed the hope that during  this International Decade for People of African Descent, CERD will help persuade the Canadian government to Make Real Change Happen for African Canadians.”