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B.C. to collect data on ‘invisible’ racism in provincial services

Annual reports on experience with health care, justice system
Lydia Hwitsum, Chief of the Cowichan Tribes, is a member of the political executive of B.C.’s First Nations Summit. (B.C. government photo)

The B.C. government has introduced its Anti-Racism Data Act, designed to collect and report anonymous data on discrimination faced by Indigenous and racial minorities interacting with provincial services.

Premier John Horgan said May 2 the law is needed because “systemic racism and the long-lasting effects of colonialism” have held people back in their education, job opportunities, housing, health care and in dealing with the justice system.

“These injustices are compounded when Indigenous peoples and racialized communities ask for action, only to be told by government to provide evidence using data that is not being collected,” Horgan said at an event at the B.C. legislature before the bill was introduced Monday. “Today, we are taking an important step toward building a more equitable province by shining a light on barriers that exist so we can improve services and make life better for everyone.”

The project will begin with a B.C. Stats population survey in November to collect voluntary and anonymous data on people’s experience with provincial ministries, with the first annual public report to come in May 2023. Other provincial agencies of government are to be included in future years.

The province has provided $1.1 million in grants to about 70 community organizations, and hired a consulting company to engage with cultural, faith, disability and Indigenous communities.

“For far too long, our people have been disproportionately affected by systemic racism, whether it be in the legal system, medical system, government institutions or other areas of society, and this injustice has been invisible due to the lack of disaggregated data,” said Lydia Hwitsum, Chief of the Cowichan Tribes and a member of the B.C. First Summit political executive. “This legislation will enable enhanced collection, analysis and utilization of data in a way that honours our rights to data sovereignty.”

The data collection project follows recommendations from B.C. Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender’s report “Disaggregated demographic data collection in B.C.: the grandmother perspective.”

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