The House

The House: Halifax incidents raise questions about racism in Canada

This week on The House, we look ahead to Tuesday's provincial election in Prince Edward Island with two of the party leaders. We also explore racial profiling in Canada with Senator Wanda Bernard. And we ask our In House panel to recap the Alberta election and what to expect in October's federal one.
Nova Scotia Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard says it's time for Canada to have a tough conversation about anti-black racism. (Dalhousie News)
Listen to the full episode49:59

Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard says it's time for Canada to have some tough conversations about racism. 

This week, Halifax banned police from doing street checks after a report found black people were six times more likely to get stopped than Caucasians. 

Bernard's own husband was stopped by police in a similar incident last year while he was driving her car, which had expired plates at the time. 

"He was racially profiled driving my car," she told The House. 

"They didn't even say anything about the expired license plate, so they didn't notice the fact that it was expired. They noticed that he was a black man driving this car looking suspicious."

The senator has been an advocate against anti-Black racism during her time on Parliament Hill, including introducing a bill for a dedicated Emancipation Day and calling for a Senate inquiry into racism.

But the treatment her husband faced really made the issue personal.

"That experience rocked me to my core because it just reinforced how significant and how important it is for us to be addressing these issues."

There was also an incident of racial profiling on Parliament Hill earlier this year.

It happened on Feb. 4, when a coalition of black, human rights, labour and youth groups were attending the Black Voices on the Hill Day. About 150 members took part in meetings with eight cabinet ministers.

The visitors later reported that a government employee had complained to the Parliamentary Protective Service (PPS) about them, taking their picture and referring to them as "dark-skinned people."

The group alleged a member of the PPS who responded to the employee's complaint used the term "dark-skinned" and told them to leave the cafeteria, even though they had valid passes allowing them to be there.

"The racial profiling incident cannot be condoned and must be dealt with swiftly and purposefully," said Speaker Geoff Regan in a statement delivered in the House of Commons.

Bernard thinks that standard must be applied across the board, not just to singular incident inside or outside of Parliament.

"We must really focus on the broader issues the broader issues of anti-Black racism the conversations that many Canadians don't even want to have in this country."

On May 1st 2018 Nova Scotian Independent Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard stood in the Senate and introduced an inquiry into anti-black racism. Earlier that same day her husband was driving her car back in Halifax and was stopped by police without cause. This week Nova Scotia put a moratorium on police street checks after a report revealed black people in the province were six times more likely to be stopped by police than white people. Senator Bernard says police street checks are a national problem and argues that anti-black racism is an invisible problem in Canada that needs to be made visible. 11:10

Is it time for a change in P.E.I.?

NDP Leader Joe Byrne, left to right, Progressive Conservative Leader Dennis King, Green Leader Peter Bevan-Baker and Liberal Leader Wade MacLauchlan pose for a photo at the provincial leaders debate at the Harbourfront Theatre in Summerside, P.E.I. on Tuesday, April 16, 2019. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

Polls suggest there may be an appetite for political change in Prince Edward Island, and the Green Party is preparing to capitalize on it.

Party leader Peter Bevan-Baker says his time in the legislature has allowed him to convince Islanders that his Greens are worth taking a chance on. 

"We've had some time in the House to establish ourselves as a credible alternative and build that comfort level with Islanders for the thought of doing the almost unthinkable — voting a party other than the Liberals or the Conservatives," he told The House.

Polls suggest there may be an appetite for political change in Prince Edward Island, and the Green Party is preparing to capitalize on it. 6:50

Polls currently suggest a close race between the PCs, the Greens and the Liberals, who have been in power since 2007.

Incumbent Premier Wade MacLauchlan says it's too close to call until election day, but he thinks voters want politics that include everyone. 

"They're watching what's going on in Washington and Ottawa and Westminster and so on and I think people do have an appetite for a kind of democracy that is going to be engaging and inclusive."

It's the first time in Canadian history that the Greens have been within reach of power in any province — and the polls are so tight it could be the first minority or coalition government in the island's history. 

Bevan-Baker says it's his time to show P.E.I. what a Green government can do.

P.E.I. Liberal Leader Wade MacLauchlan says it's too close of a race to call until election day, but he thinks voters want inclusive politics. 7:58


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