Out in the Open

'There's a price to be paid for 450 years of discrimination': Bob Rae says we must right Canada's racist past

Bob Rae frankly reflects on how Canada hasn't come to terms with its racist past... and suggests how politicians and regular people could.
Bob Rae is a former politician and currently works as lawyer, negotiator, mediator, and arbitrator, with a particular focus on First Nations, Aboriginal, and governance issues. (REUTERS/Chris Wattie)

This story originally aired on January 8, 2017

Bob Rae isn't surprised the Colten Boushie case has resurfaced tensions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada.

"This is the story of Canada", said the professor, lawyer and negotiator with a focus on Indigenous communities. "We wouldn't be a country if it wasn't about this relationship between the people who have been here for thousands and thousands of years and everybody who's come since."

Rae formerly had a long career in politics at both the federal and provincial levels. During that time, he said he had to be careful not to directly call out racism.

Now that he's on the other side, Rae's ready to label it what it is.

"We have been surrounded by racism our entire history," he said, "and we're only just now beginning to talk about this question of who are we as Canadians, and what is the nature of this relationship between the settler population…and Indigenous people. This is a big deal for us as a country."

Rae calls on government to spend money and change how resources are allocated to begin righting some of the wrongs he sees in our collective past.

"There's a price to be paid for 450 years of discrimination," he said, "Go and visit a reserve and say to yourself 'Is this community really getting the benefits of sharing the wealth in Canada?'...The reality is we're not doing nearly enough. I really believe Canadians have to come to grips with this."