VICTORIA — The British Columbia government has introduced data collection legislation to help dismantle systemic racism faced by Indigenous and other racialized communities, Premier John Horgan said Monday.
"I always say that I'm the son of an Irish immigrant, but it's got to be more than where you came from," Horgan said at a news conference prior to the government's introduction of its Anti-Racism Data Act.
"It's what can we do tomorrow to make this dynamic, diverse multicultural community also an anti-racist community," he said to applause.
The legislation will allow the government to collect and use data that reveals barriers for people as evidence to help build more equitable policies, Horgan said.
Examples of data collection came in a report from the Office of the Human Rights Commissioner released in September 2020. It said then that only 25 per cent of Indigenous communities in B.C. have basic internet access, while more than 40 per cent of homeless youth are LGBTQ.
Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender's report said data can be important because it reveals patterns of inequalities and differences between groups.
"Simply put, we cannot address what we cannot see," the report said.
Horgan said the act will help identify gaps in programs and services to better meet the needs of Indigenous people, Black people and others who face discrimination in B.C.
"The Anti-Racism Data Act is about building and maintaining trust," said Attorney General David Eby, who introduced the act in the legislature. "Due to history and ongoing concerns about misuse of data, Indigenous Peoples and other racialized communities do not trust governments to collect, use and disclose information in ways that do not result in further prejudice and stigmatization."
Eby said the act will ensure that proper safeguards and protections are put in place to protect the information and prevent it from being used for harm. It will also require government ministries to follow careful guidelines before any statistical data is shared publicly.
The introduction of the legislation was endorsed Monday by Indigenous leaders and representatives of other racialized communities who attended a ceremony at the legislature.
Robert Phillips, a First Nation Summit political executive member, said the legislation will provide information to chart examples of systemic racism and ensure racialized communities are treated fairly.
"For too long our people have been impacted by systemic racism," said Phillips, citing mistreatment of Indigenous people in B.C. by law enforcement and in health care.
A spokeswoman for Vancouver's Black community said the introduction of the legislation marked a "glorious day."
"We have an opportunity to shine a light on dark places," said June Francis, chairwoman of Vancouver's Hogan's Alley Society and an associate professor the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University.
The data will provide evidence to help people in racialized communities make their case to government for better services and support, she said.
"These inequities were hidden," Francis said. "When you said, 'It exists,' people would say, 'How do you prove it?'"
Horgan said the success of the legislation will revolve around trust.
"There are a lot of things to pack together and unpack in the colonial history of B.C. and we won't be able to do that with one swing of the bat," he said. "Obviously, we need to build confidence in racialized communities that this is real and the way you do that is engage."
The government said more than 90 per cent of racialized people who participated in a community-led survey stated that collecting data about ethnicity, gender identity and faith could drive change in B.C. and build trust with government.
More than 13,000 people completed the survey.
A further survey of provincial demographic data will be collected starting next fall, the government said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 2, 2022.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press