Sask.'s next government must address barriers Black people face

Acknowledging Black communities and organizations and the issues they face — during and after the election campaign — is an excellent place to start.

Acknowledging Black communities and the issues they face is a good start

Juliet Bushi acted as master of ceremonies and co-ordinated one of the Black Lives Matter rallies in front of the legislature building in Regina. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

This is an opinion piece by Juliet Bushi, an educator and PhD student in Regina. She is part of CBC Saskatchewan's Contributors Panel, which is weighing in on issues relevant to Saskatchewan in advance of the provincial election on Oct. 26.

For more information about CBC's Opinion section, please see the FAQ.

Addressing systemic racism and inequalities need to be a priority for Saskatchewan's next government. Acknowledging Black communities and organizations and the issues they face — during and after the election campaign — is an excellent place to start.

As a Black woman who has spent most of my adult life in Regina, I am continuously reminded that systemic racism, suicide, job insecurity and culturally relevant services that impact my community are not a priority for politicians in Saskatchewan. This is evident in the current provincial election campaign.

Very few promises have been made to address the issues that continue to plague Black communities in Saskatchewan. Instead, there seems to be more interest in digging up past offences and controversial social media posts.

Recent Back Lives Matter rallies in Regina and Saskatoon were highly supported and allowed for non-BIPOC to understand the impacts of systemic racism and to witness people whose lives have been changed by racism. We see the support in our community.

I believe there are people in this province who are open-minded and understand that in the end, we are all one human race.

Demonstrators gathered for a Black Lives Matter at the Saskatchewan Legislature Building on June 7, 2020. (Heidi Atter/CBC News)

Barriers persist

The Canadian dream is distant for most Canadian-born and new immigrants. We encounter systemic racism, polite racism, social barriers, intellectual marginalization and accent discrimination.

Most Black immigrants are well educated. Many of us are Masters and Ph.D. holders with years of experience and professional certifications, but this is not reflected in the job market. Even with the highest level of education and experience, Black people are less likely to be awarded merits or promotion compared to their white peers.

The stress of having to start all over again when we arrive in Canada — coupled with the responsibilities of taking care of our family, racism and discrimination — is exhausting and discouraging.

Our spiritual leaders and elders are running out of solutions and advice. We have listened to our politicians and many of us cannot find any hope in their policies and mandates. How can I vote for a politician that cannot understand the issues that impact the health and well-being of my community?

Black organizations in our community are grossly underfunded, leaving community members to bear the bulk of the financial burden. Our community is seen as a deficit full of cultural poverty and nuisance. Our cultural knowledge, skills, abilities and connections go unrecognized, unacknowledged, undervalued and delegitimized.

We are not a priority.

Policies lag behind

Black people have lived in this province for more than 100 years. We have worked hard and contributed to the health, social, economic and education systems, and the welfare of this province.

Despite the challenges many of us face, policies have not been in our favour. Many of us have been implicitly ignored in almost all aspects of our society. Our assigned opportunities are limited by racism.

This is not to say that other racial groups do not experience the severe and devastating effects of racism — or to compare and contrast the racism and discrimination we face — but if we continue to keep silent, Black people are going to remain at the bottom of the well.

Ubuntu philosophy offers way forward

Politicians need to make an effort to connect with Black communities, because some of us are tired of reaching out. Those in power need to understand and embody the core values of Ubuntu, a philosophy of togetherness rather than segregation, collaboration not competition, and interconnectedness not separation.

As Black people and people of African descent, we understand it is important to love Blackness as political and social resistance.

Ubuntu enables us to work from a framework of reconciliation and truth so that when we come together, we not only notice and respect our differences, we acknowledge our similarities.

We are in constant competition with one another, this race versus that race. Our society has been injected with venom of mass hatred and prejudice that destroys our consciousness and humanity.

We are shown that you must lose your conscience to succeed, putting others down to make way for ourselves. This type of behaviour is toxic and encourages negative stereotypes.

Ubuntu allows us to recognize and respect our differences and allows us to recognize that there are vulnerable people in our society who do not have the same access and privileges the dominant society does.

We all want to live a good life and have a stable career, whole health, safety, good neighbours, accessible and affordable education, and so on. We must examine what roles we are playing in holding back Ubuntu and work to be the change we need to transform our society.

When Ubuntu is our core value, we realize our shared humanity and the dignity of one another. 

Representation is crucial

To start with, we need diversity in political offices, senior administrative and management positions in government, media and education, and in organizations that are created to protect us.

There needs to be more funding allocated to Black organizations. Our government needs to take concrete steps to address systemic barriers in the hiring process, health care, professional licensing and education. We need a transparent and equitable process that allows BIPOC candidates equal opportunity. 

As the Igbos of southeastern Nigeria say, "to dance the dance of change, one cannot afford to stand comfortably in one place." This saying is applicable to social transformation in Saskatchewan. It reflects the importance of talking less and acting more.

Representation is as crucial as the policies that govern us. Change has to start at the top. 

This column is part of CBC's Opinion section. For more information about this section, please read this editor's blog and our FAQ.

Interested in writing for us? We accept pitches for opinion and point-of-view pieces from Saskatchewan residents who want to share their thoughts on the news of the day, issues affecting their community or who have a compelling personal story to share. No need to be a professional writer!

Read more about what we're looking for here, then email with your idea.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.



Juliet Bushi is an educator and PhD student in Regina.