Opinion: Acknowledging systemic racism isn’t enough; we must act

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If we are fortunate, the mass demonstrations that have taken place will push us away from merely speaking up against bigotry in outbursts. They will hopefully inspire us to create a proper framework to actually tackle systemic racism in tangible ways.

Such a framework will require governments and corporations to take steps beyond acknowledging that systemic racism exists. Hiring practices need to be re-examined; targets for diversity at the highest levels must be set. Municipal, provincial, and federal governing bodies need to reform their own practices and assert their influence to implement policies to end system inequities.

Expressing understanding is not enough. Leaders in Canadian society — be they captains of industry, commissioners, generals, or elected officials — need to ask themselves some questions: Am I doing enough? Am I complacent? Is my organization simply “not racist,” or is it striving to be “anti-racist?” This is an uncomfortable process, but taking responsibility is never supposed to be comfortable.

Thirteen years ago, after I was posed an indelicate question by a future constituent, I told her that I intended to work for everyone, regardless of what they looked like. Individual community leaders do some admirable work every day in Canada, in every sector and capacity, for people of all backgrounds. We need to make sure that our systems are doing the same.

Amarjeet Sohi is the senior advisor at ALAR Strategy Group and is the former federal minister of infrastructure as well as natural resources.

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