Immigration Minister Sean Fraser admits there are racists in his department, says Blacklock’s Reporter.
Fraser’s comment comes on the heels of a report the department tolerated crude bigotry, that included managers who patted a black employee’s hair and called indigenous people lazy.
“I think we in every department of the Government of Canada have to constantly be aware of examples of systemic racism and discrimination that do exist and root them out at the source,” Fraser told reporters on Wednesday.
“This is something that we need to do in every aspect of the operations of the Government of Canada.”
“Are you saying there is discrimination in your department?” asked a reporter.
“It would be silly if I were to stand here and say that in a department of 11,000 people, if you look at the different operations, to say that there is no discrimination,” replied Fraser.
The department in a September 22 report documented numerous cases of bigoted remarks by senior management. It said derogatory remarks were so commonplace “participants do not believe there are currently any consequences for racism and racist behaviour at the Department of Immigration.”
“It’s something that I personally want to look into,” said Fraser, adding prejudice had no place in processing immigration claims.
“Unconscious bias and systemic racism have been a shameful part of Canada’s history over different aspects of the government’s operations, but one of the things we want to do is make sure that we apply a lens to ensure this kind of unconscious bias doesn’t discriminate against people who come from a particular part of the world.
The report said data pointed to suspiciously high refusal rates in some classes of immigrants.
“Participants expressed concern that some of the overt and subtle racism they have witnessed by both employees and decision-makers can — and probably must — impact case processing,” said the report.
“Some point to differences in refusal rates by country as an indicator that some form of bias must be at play.”
The report was based on interviews with department employees who identified as Asian, black and Caucasian.
“Participants agree they do not feel they are in a safe environment to speak out against racism,” said the report.
Examples included managers who:
called African countries “the dirty 30”;
nicknamed a work unit with black employees as “the ghetto”;
made “lewd comments about physical characteristics of ‘black girls’”;
greeted one black employee with the remark: “Salut, ma noire” (“Hi, my black”);
asked to touch black employees’ hair;
said Mexicans “just come here to collect social insurance”;
“Indigenous people are lazy”;
“if the natives wanted the land they should have just stood up.”
“Participants shared a large number of specific examples of racism witnessed within the department as well as their causes. These include but are not limited to micro-aggressions ranging from well-intentioned comments with hurtful impacts to blatantly racist tropes.”
Employees said they “do not believe there are currently any consequences for racism or racist behaviour at the department, or if there are consequences that go beyond a slap on the wrist they do not believe they are applied in their sectors,” the report added.
“There seems to be no lasting accountability for those accused of racism.”