Black Lawmaker to Fellow Black Canadians: Rise Up!

Black Lawmaker to Fellow Black Canadians: Rise Up!

Canadian lawmaker Don Oliver says the Black community in the country needs to unify to fight the forces of racism.

Published July 1, 2011

Racism has held back Blacks in Canada for years, says one Black lawmaker, and it’s about time Afro-Canadians unite and do something about it.


Veteran Nova Scotia Sen. Don Oliver made his rousing remarks Monday as he was addressing a group of Black professionals at a Canadian Multiculturalism Day event, Postmedia News reports.


Black Canadians (at times referred to as Afro-Canadians, or by their country of origin, i.e. Jamaican-Canadian) make up about 2.5 percent of the entire Canadian population according to 2006 Census figures, making them the third largest minority group behind Chinese (3.9 percent) and South Asians (4 percent), not including Aboriginal peoples.


"What will it take for our collective Afro-Canadian family to unite—to rise up and claim our rightful place in Canadian society?" he asked.


"Racism still holds us back, both in the public and the private sector ... Our co-workers do not accept us, do not treat us fairly," Oliver, who has been in office for over 30 years, said. “In Parliament is there racism? In the Senate, in the House of Commons, in the library of Parliament are there barriers? There certainly are." Oliver also blamed racism for the lack of visible minorities in government.


A 2003 government survey backs up his statements on the prevalence of prejudice. The Ethnic Diversity Survey found that almost 50 percent of Black Canadians surveyed say they’ve experienced discrimination or unfair treatment in the past five years.


In addition, the practice of racial profiling Afro-Canadians, by police and other officials, remains a problem, according to a 2007 report from the National Anti-Racism Council of Canada.


In the face of such racism, Blacks need to pull together even more, but a slavery mentality is keeping that from happening, he said, echoing an idea familiar with African-Americans in the United States. When one gets ahead the group drags him or her back.


“We do not assist and help one another as we should ... Until we reach out to our [fellow Blacks] it is going to be hard for us to make the kind of upward movement that I would like to see us have as a group,” he said.


As the nation’s diversity continues to grow, unity will become more important than ever.


Written by Hortense M. Barber


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