Tag Archives: anti-racism

Asian Heritage Month: United in the fight to stop Asian hate

Stop Asian Hate sign

Asian Heritage Month is traditionally an opportunity for Canadians to recognize the incredible contributions and achievements of people of Asian descent who have helped shape Canada. Their contributions and challenges are often overlooked in the media, schools, and other mainstream institutions, even though they make up the largest racialized community in Canada.

This year’s celebration has been overshadowed by repeated – and often violent – anti-Asian racist incidents across Canada and the rest of the world during the pandemic.  Many racist attacks have been fuelled by longstanding racist stereotypes about people of Asian descent.

The horrific mass shooting in Atlanta this March is just the latest in a string of disturbing racially motivated violence in Canada and in the U.S.

In Canada specifically, there has been a sharp rise in anti-Asian hate over the past year, leaving many people afraid of doing everyday activities such as going to get groceries or even walking through the park. A new report by the Chinese Canadian National Council highlights 1,150 cases of racist attacks in Canada from March 10 to December 31, 2020. Even children and the elderly have been physically assaulted.

In Vancouver, incidents of anti-Asian hate crimes increased by over 700 per cent in 2020, while in Ottawa and Montreal, anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 600 and 400 per cent, respectively. Asian women—uniquely hypersexualized and marginalized—also continue to bear the brunt of this racism and misogyny, making them more vulnerable to violence.

The recent surge in Anti-Asian hate in Canada has given rise to demands from powerful voices from people of Asian descent for the federal government to take concrete and immediate action. PSAC joins them in calling on the government to:

  • Strengthen the federal government’s anti-racism strategy to include and specifically address incidents of anti-Asian racism;
  • Increase funding for the Anti-Racism Secretariat to make it permanent, independent and with a focus on anti-Asian racism;
  • Develop a stronger mandate to collect race-based data that is intersectional and examines subgroups within the very diverse Asian communities;
  • Eliminate employment barriers for people of Asian descent to get jobs or be promoted in the federal public service, including recognition of international qualifications.

We all have a role to play in the fight against anti-Asian racism and all other forms of racism in Canada. We must take action and challenge racism when we witness it in our communities, our workplaces, our union and at home. If you need support addressing racism in your workplace, reach out to your union representative.

Celebrate the voices of people of Asian Heritage

People of Asian descent are at the forefront of addressing anti-Asian racism, including collecting and documenting the incidents of Anti-Asian racism in Canada and providing support for those who experience it.

You can play a small but vital part in the path towards dismantling systemic racism by listening to the challenges faced by people of Asian descent in Canada during our upcoming webinar and learning more about their contributions through our digital history series that will be released throughout May.

This article has also been posted on the PSAC website.

CIU Statement on PSAC Anti-Racism Webinar

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Sisters and Brothers,

The Customs and Immigration Union is a component of the PSAC. Our members benefit from the strength that comes from being part of the largest federal public sector union in Canada.

The CIU does not tolerate bullying, harassment or intimidation. Whether at a union event, on social media or in the workplace, we have always taken a firm stance on tolerance, respect and dignity. Our members have the right to ask questions, especially of their union, without being made to feel belittled or attacked.

The PSAC decided to offer a webinar in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. CIU applauded that initiative and believed it would be informative and beneficial to our members.

By creating a provocative webinar title – An Introduction to Anti-Racism for White Folks – we can only assume that the facilitators wanted to spark debate and were encouraging participants to explore why white people need to engage more fully in the anti-racism initiative. In other words, sparking questions creates a teaching moment, and that’s a good thing.

On social media, a PSAC member asked exactly the question that the title of the seminar was designed to elicit. Why was this webinar only for white people?  Instead of using the question to explore the content of the webinar, one of the facilitators simply told the member to “eat shit”.

The controversy that followed is not about racism. It’s about respect. At CIU, we want our members to receive the best possible training from the most competent experts we can find. Clearly, this isn’t it.

The CIU represents over 11,000 workers, many of whom are law enforcement professionals. While we stand behind global efforts to combat racism, we advocate for a reasoned and informed approach to education and change. We all need to do better but believe that sweeping generalizations about law enforcement don’t move us forward.

We believe that the comments surrounding the PSAC webinar are offensive and inappropriate. We also believe that our members deserve better and should not be subject to abuse when they engage in discussion with someone who has been contracted to speak on behalf of their union.

The PSAC is a democratic organization. In light of recent discussions, one of which held by the PSAC National Board of Directors, an earlier decision to remove Nora Loreto from her role as one of the webinar’s facilitators was reversed. The CIU did not support this decision. We continue to find her comments and behaviour indefensible and question her ability to facilitate a productive and inclusive discussion. As such, we are not encouraging our members to participate in this webinar.

Again, the CIU’s decision to distance itself from the PSAC’s webinar is about respect. The CIU is working on a number of anti-racism initiatives and continues, as always, to support all efforts to put an end to racism.

We believe that this goal can be achieved through inclusive, constructive and respectful dialogue.

In solidarity,

The CIU National Executive

Anti-racism training for Customs and Immigration Union members: Letter to Minister Blair

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CIU National President Jean-Pierre Fortin sent the following letter to the Hon. Bill Blair, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, on June 5, 2020.

Dear Minister,

This past week, people from around the world witnessed the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. These events lay bare the systems and culture that result in unequal treatment and racism in the law enforcement and other institutions. Canada’s Prime Minister and many federal representatives have rightly pointed out that although this event took place in the United States, our country is not immune to racism, unconscious bias and systemic discrimination. Police Chiefs and associations have issued open letters calling for reform. The cries of Canadians are loud and clear, they will not tolerate injustice and the Customs and Immigration Union (CIU) adds its voice to theirs.

As you know, the CIU represents some 11,000 members, many of whom are Border Services Officers. While they enforce the law, their role is unique in that they are the first to come into contact with travellers to Canada from around the world.

Many of the CIU’s members are racialized and we know that they are hurting. We also know that racism is everywhere, within various groups and in all workplaces. Its impact is far reaching. Our union wants to take concrete steps in an effort to support our members and all those who are also suffering due to racism, discrimination and unconscious bias perpetrated in workplaces and beyond.

The Prime Minister has pointed out that far too often, our current systems condone and normalize inequality and injustice. He also stated that the Government of Canada is ready to work with Canadians to eradicate racism and has called on allies to help build a fair, better and more equitable country for all.

The CIU National Executive discussed ways in which our union might become such an ally and call on you to work with us to create genuine change. If Canadians are being called on to combat unconscious bias, we asked ourselves how we might participate in that fight. We believe that to achieve societal reform, we will need to replace current “reactive” methods and processes with “proactive” ones. No doubt the Federal government and perhaps you, as Minister of Public Safety, are contemplating various avenues to address this matter. Unions and employers must be active partners in the dismantling of systemic discrimination and the development of a more progressive model of law enforcement.

It is our understanding that many law enforcement organizations provide anti-racism training. The CIU wants to ensure its members have the tools necessary to combat discrimination of all kinds. In-person, comprehensive training will go a long way to preventing the suffering of our members and those they meet and serve, be it in an office, at the border, in an airport or elsewhere. Current and short “presentations” to new recruits do not go far enough and neither will online training ensure that we are equipping our members to address systemic racism and unconscious bias.

The Canadian government has taken a proactive approach to combatting racism, funding a variety of initiatives. In keeping with that approach, we strongly believe that in the long term, funding enhanced training initiatives will be to everyone’s benefit. It is clear that current “reactive” policies and procedures, such as the ones the world has been witnessing lately, are costly and ineffective. Investment in training for CIU members is an important first step to help them to become stronger allies and leaders in the fight against racism and discrimination of all kinds.

Yours truly,

Jean-Pierre Fortin
National President
Customs and Immigration Union

Click here for the PDF version.