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What does the case of Trayvon Martin tell us about racism in Canada?


Racism has reared its ugly head as a result of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin several weeks ago in Sanford, Florida. Yesterday’s Slate article, “The New Selma?” is just one example of the varied and complex discussions taking place online.

This United States-style racism just does not exist in Canada, right? Well, that was my first thought as I followed the news of this tragic event and the resulting media frenzy. The Canadian media have been covering the story almost as enthusiastically as their American counterparts with this National Post article being one example. The difference being that the Canadian media are reporting these events as happening “down there,” which allows Canadian residents to take comfort from the fact that “it could never happen here.”

Just as I was feeling rather cozy and smug about living in racism-free Canada, my niece called me and asked if I could have a look at a paper she’s writing for a sociology course at university. The topic? Racial profiling and other racist practices of Canadian police services! As I was checking for proper spelling and grammar, I was struck by the research findings my niece was writing about. Did you know, for example, that according to one study it is 4.5 more likely that Toronto Police will stop a black driver than a white driver?

What do you think?

  • Is racism in Canada non-existent?
  • Do Canadians practise racism differently from their American neighbours?
  • Is workplace racism practised in Canada?
  • If so, how? What does it look like?

I am looking forward to hearing your opinions on this topic.

Remember the mantra—Learn don’t litigate.

Andrew Lawson

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Andrew Lawson

Trainer and advisor at Learn Don't Litigate
Andrew Lawson is a human rights and health and safety trainer and advisor, currently consulting to both the federal and Ontario governments. Since 1996, he has conducted extensive legal research in the areas of human rights and occupational health and safety law. He has worked in the people management business for over 25 years. Read more
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3 thoughts on “What does the case of Trayvon Martin tell us about racism in Canada?
  • Ken says:

    What frustrates me, as a First nations person, is that teachers and media keep focusing on racism against “black” people. The fact is that racism toward this ‘group’ (which i put in quotes because some are from various African nations, some are 2nd, 3rd, or more generation born here, some are from places like Haiti, etc.) is almost non-existent in Canada in comparison to racism against Aboriginal people. The Pickton inquiry is an example, comments in EVERY article that even remotely mentions ‘Aboriginal’ are examples, the apathy of police in solving over 700 missing and murdered Aboriginal women cases, the thousands of cases of police brutality against Aboriginal people are examples, the public declaring of all of my people as radicals and terrorists by Darth Harper is another example… I could go on and on and on with examples both old and current.

  • And perhaps we are so smug about it that the Canadian media fails to report racist behaviour to the extent it is reported in the US. Or, maybe the Canadian media is afraid to talk about racism for fear we will find out how we really are . ..

  • Karin says:

    Racism is alive and thriving in Canada, in our workplaces, schools, neighbourhoods, etc.

    it is odd that the head in the sand approach to racism is Canada is still prevalent but I think perhaps that depends on our networks to some degree. If our personal networks engage us in the lives of a diverse cross section of the Canadian population we will, inevitably come face to face with all sorts of discriminatory behaviour, including racism.

    Perhaps the difference between Canada and the US in how this shows up is that citizens here generally do not carry guns. I think if you Google hate crimes in Canada you will see overt racism. There have been many cases reported of severe beatings, some leading to death, ugly graffitti sprayed on schools denoting racists comments and that doesn’t even touch on the blatant discrimination that takes place inside worplaces.

    Canadians are not in a position to criticize or be smug about what goes on across the border-it happens here more than many seem to believe. And that includes reverse racism.