Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it's time Canadians acknowledge that racism and unconscious bias against black people exist in this country.

He called for action to ensure equal opportunity and treatment of the more than one million black Canadians, including doing more to recruit and elect black members of Parliament.

Trudeau made the comments Monday in a short speech at a reception marking Black History Month at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que.

Kay Livingstone Stamp

One of this year's two Black History Month Stamps shows Kathleen 'Kay' Livingstone, who founded the group that would eventually become the Congress of Black Women of Canada. (Canada Post)

Two weeks ago, Trudeau announced that Canada is officially recognizing the United Nations' International Decade for People of African Descent, which emphasizes the need for research and data collection to better understand the challenges facing black communities around the globe.

Trudeau said advocacy groups have complained about the over-representation of black people in prisons and about insufficient support for those with mental health issues.

More black MPs

He said his government is committed to working with the black community to make progress on those and other challenges faced by black Canadians.

"It's time we recognize that anti-black racism and unconscious bias does exist," Trudeau told the reception Monday.

"It's time we hear — and believe — the stories of men and women who have been judged by the colour of their skin. It's time we take action to ensure equal opportunity and equal treatment of black Canadians in our schools and our places of work."

Lincoln Alexander stamp

Lincoln Alexander, Canada's first Black MP and former Ontario lieutenant-governor, is shown on a Canada Post stamp for Black History Month. (Canada Post)

Trudeau also said it's time the House of Commons — "the heart of our democracy" — looked more like the composition of Canadian society, including more black MPs.

"For too many people, anti-black racism, discrimination and inequality are part of their daily lives. This is unacceptable. Canada can and must do better," Trudeau said.

The reception included songs, poetry and the unveiling of the latest two additions to the series of stamps Canada Post has produced to honour the achievements of black Canadians.

One of the new stamps features former Ontario lieutenant governor Lincoln Alexander, the first black Canadian to be elected to the House of Commons, appointed to the federal cabinet and named to a viceregal position.

The other features Kay Livingstone, the late activist who founded the Canadian Negro Women's Association in the 1950s and the Congress of Black Women of Canada in 1975. In 2011, she was named a person of national historic significance by the federal government.