Canada’s unions are marking Black History Month by calling for long-term, concrete government action to address systemic labour market discrimination and disadvantages faced by Black workers.
“Black people in Canada have had to struggle with the impacts of colonial systems that have rooted anti-Black racism into our institutions, policies, workplaces and society,” said Bea Bruske, President of the Canadian Labour Congress. “So, while we celebrate Black History Month, it’s critical that our commitment to support and stand with Black workers and communities extends beyond this one month,” said Bruske.
Black History Month is an important time to recognize both the contributions and struggles of Black communities in this country. The history of Black people in Canada spans centuries and consists of a wide range of experiences, including slavery and abolition, homesteading and migration, the civil rights movement, and immigration.
Black people in Canada have made notable contributions to all aspects of life in this country, including to the labour movement, but these achievements have not come without struggle – which Black communities continue to face to this day.
“The social and economic impacts of anti-Black racism and discrimination have been significant and have resulted in a multigenerational wage gap for Black communities in Canada. And the barriers to social and economic advancement are only worse when the Black experience meets other experiences of marginalization, such as for Black people with disabilities, Black Muslims, Black women or Black trans people,” said Larry Rousseau, Executive Vice-President of the CLC.
The effects of systemic racism include ongoing labour market discrimination against Black workers, which has seen Black workers receive lower wages and face barriers in all aspects of work, from the hiring process, to advancement and retention.
Longstanding issues require long-term solutions and supports. Canada’s unions are calling on the federal government to address economic and systemic racism and discrimination faced by Black workers by committing to and implementing the following actions:
- Create an intersectional national anti-Black racism strategy, including strong employment and pay targets and concrete measures to address systemic labour-market discrimination and disadvantages faced by Black workers;
- Ensure the reform and modernization of the Employment Equity Act includes employer requirements to divulge pay gaps affecting Black workers and a plan to narrow and eliminate the gender and multigenerational racial pay gap;
- Designate Black workers as an equity-seeking group under the Employment Equity Act to take into account the significant inequities, barriers and disparities in employment experienced by Black workers as a result of systemic racism and discrimination, toward addressing and eliminating systemic anti-Black racism in employment;
- Invest in public social infrastructure and care work as part of an equitable pandemic recovery plan to ensure good, safe jobs and stronger care systems that support all those who need care as well as all care workers – many of whom are Black women; and
- Launch an inquiry on the overrepresentation of Black children and youth in the care of child protection services.
This Black History Month and beyond, Canada’s unions stand in solidarity with and support Black workers and communities. Show your support and join us for a text rally on February 23 at 1pm. Eastern, where we will be texting Canadians across the country and inviting them to demand change from government and increased supports for Black workers and communities.