Research Area: Social Innovation | Status: Completed | Led By: Researcher-led
Systemic racism is the interaction of several elements in society in a manner that produces inequities for racial minorities. These elements include structures and policies that eventually leave the racialized population short-changed. After the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, racism became a heavily discussed topic in North America. Similarly, there have been several discussions surrounding the experience of Black people in different Canadian communities. Among others, the major questions were:
According to Matthew Martin, Executive Director, Black Lives Matter, New Brunswick (BLMNB), there’s a lot of information at the national level to help answer some of these burning questions. Some provinces have also taken steps to have easily accessible race-based data.
Unfortunately, in New Brunswick, there is not enough qualitative and quantitative data to demonstrate the effects of systemic racism.
According to the “New Beginnings” population growth strategy by the provincial government, one of the goals is to “create an environment where newcomers and their families can settle and succeed.”
However, Matthew Martin noted that many Black individuals and families prefer places like Halifax and Montreal with larger Black-Canadian communities.
For the province to attain its population growth goals, the Black population must feel comfortable settling in the province. For Martin, the first step to achieving this is investigating the current state of systemic racism in the province. “We wanted to know the qualitative and quantitative data of what systemic racism looks like in New Brunswick.”
BLMNB reached out to NBCC’s Office of Applied Research and Innovation (ARI) to help carry out the research. The NBCC research team was led by Dr. Diane Burt. Other major contributors were NBCC researcher Dr. Eloho Ifinedo, instructor Jennifer Simpson, an external consultant, and student research assistants.
According to Dr. Ifinedo, the research team took a solution-focused approach using Appreciative Inquiry. There were focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and questionnaires. This method enabled the research team to receive more solution-focused responses.
“Some people didn’t know what racism was…or if they were being racist in their actions. So, we need some more education,” Dr. Ifinedo pointed out.
She further explained that some respondents advised that more education is needed as early as in elementary school about racism.
The research focused on the education, social development, health, and justice sectors. Interestingly, only the justice sector collected race-based data prior to the research.
Some of these sectors used to collect race-based data in the past but stopped doing so. Matthew Martin explained that a lack of race-based data only made it more challenging to discover problematic areas.
However, he also noted that the Municipal Police in New Brunswick have race-based data from their interactions with residents. “In Fredericton, Black people make up only 1.6% of the population, but are involved in 6% of suspicious activity calls.” Clearly, the Black population is overrepresented here. But because this information exists, it is possible to move forward with possible solutions.
According to Martin, conversations are ongoing regarding race-based data collection in the affected sectors. Some school districts have expressed willingness to incorporate this into their systems. Of course, there’s still a long way to go, but it’s an excellent starting point.
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