Dissecting the Prime Minister’s claims of “systemic racism” in Canada

Written By Guest User, Posted on June 15, 2020

Is Canada really systemically racist? 

This is the question I find myself asking after the events that have unfolded in the news over the past few weeks. While the protests for racial justice and police reform originated in the US, triggered by the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, they’ve made their way around the world—Canada included.

These protests have prompted our Prime Minister to show his support for the movement by taking a knee during an Ottawa protest march. He followed up on this symbolic gesture with some comments made last Friday, where he acknowledged that Canada is indeed “systemically racist.” 

“Systemic racism exists across the whole country in all our institutions,” stated the Prime Minister. Mr. Trudeau evidently believes that the very “construction” of Canada’s institutions was flawed and that these same systems continue to discriminate against people of “racialized backgrounds” into the present day. Interestingly enough, the Prime Minister then proceeded to say that we need to address the “building blocks” of these systems when faced with unfair “outcomes.” 

In doing so, he dismissed the criticism of many who argue that this type of talk disparages the Canada that previous generations of Canadians built, stating that “Canadian exceptionalism isn’t thinking that we’re the best, it’s knowing that we could be.” Hearing that, I must ask, Mr. Trudeau, how is it even possible to be “the best” if the very systems on which our entire country rests on are “systemically racist?” 


RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki had a much more reasonable and nuanced take on the issues of racism and police brutality. Although she did end up caving to media pressure and admitting that the RCMP is systemically racist, an admission that would no doubt discourage many of the fine men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect the people in their communities, she at least offered up some solutions and tried to defend the RCMP an extended interview

Lucki admitted that she was having difficulty determining what exactly is meant by “systemic dicrimination”, since many different definitions have been bandied about by folks on all sides of this controversy over policing tactics. 

Up until an activist caused the definition to be changed a few days ago (how quintessentially Orwellian!), Merriam-Webster had defined racism as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” 

Logically, it would therefore follow that if Canada’s institutions were systemically racist, they would have to be systems that were founded upon this belief in genetic superiority and enacted that belief throughout the systems in the form of discriminatory policies and laws based on race. 

Evidently, that is not the case, for this is not the situation we find ourselves in here in Canada in 2020. Rather, the opposite seems to be true. Our system guarantees equality of all under the law, as codified in the Charter, and operates under the assumption that all who are charged are innocent until proven guilty. We have a wide array of anti-discrimination laws in place across the country and if anybody breaks them, they will suffer the legal consequences, not to mention the widespread public scorn if the case is publicized. 

All of this is not to say that racism does not exist on an individual level, or that even certain policies remain in place that actively discriminate against a given racial group. One might consider Canada’s Indigenous population and the poor situation many of them have fallen into due to government policies like residential schooling or according to some Indigenous Canadians, the Indian Act itself. There are no doubt injustices to be righted in Canada, and all Canadians should be unified in correcting these past wrongs and implementing solutions. 

However, to say that Canada is “systemically racist” is, despite whatever good intentions the Prime Minister may have had, to affirm that the system is beyond repair and that all the work that generations of Canadians have done to build this great nation has been in vain. 

This approach from Trudeau is reckless, foolish, and displays a shocking lack of leadership and foresight from the man tasked with running this country. Has he pointed out any specific policies that are currently discriminating against certain groups of Canadians? Has he suggested any policy solutions? No, of course not. He’s gone with the typical political playbook response of a gesture of solidarity (or virtue signalling, depending on your perspective) and a few words to show support for the cause of the day. Speak in broad terms and never get too specific or, heaven forbid, one might actually be held to account for one’s statements. 

So is Canada a systematically racist country? No, of course not. Do we perhaps suffer from unconscious bias as suggested by Commissioner Lucki? Doubtful, given the very shaky scientific ground studies on this matter rest upon. Can we improve things to ensure better outcomes for all Canadians? Absolutely. 

We have to remember that differing outcomes are not automatically a result of racism, as American academic Thomas Sowell is quite fond of pointing out. To boil anything that complicated down to one cause is a simplistic and childish approach to challenging, real world issues. 

If we want to improve on our current system, Trudeau is correct in saying that we should examine the building blocks of our society. The most fundamental of these is the family. Given the well documented impact family life has on child development and the rising rates of divorce and family breakdown over the past 75 years, perhaps the Prime Minister should start there if we really want to find the answers we need. 

What we most want to find might be where we least want to look. 

Guest User

One response to “Dissecting the Prime Minister’s claims of “systemic racism” in Canada”

  1. Jay Pannu says:

    Justin Trudeau is saying what is true and backed up by data. People tend to be biased regardless of race. It just happens that the descendants of the colonists are the ones controlling all of Canada’s political institutions currently. If we want to break this chain of colonialism then we must change the institution themselves either by defunding them to placing quotas and enforcing them with monetary policies to have racial minorities in positions of power.