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BC demographic survey aims to end systemic racism

The province is urging everyone in BC to take part in their new demographic survey to help identify systemic racism in government services.  

The 15-miniute long, online survey is available in 15 different languages and intends to serve as an opportunity for members of racialized groups to express their concerns and help the province work towards a more inclusive and accessible society.  

During the survey individuals are asked questions about their race, ethnicity and religious beliefs among other areas of identity. The information collected will be used by the provincial government to identify which areas within government services need improvement. 

Nelson-Creston MLA Brittny Anderson said Wednesday at the Nelson Chamber of Commerce that the demographic survey is an important step in the province’s anti-racism work.

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She was joined by the province’s Minister of Citizen Affairs, Lisa Beare and Mable Elmore, the Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives with the federal government, who both acknowledged the gaps that need addressing within government services. 

“We truly believe here in the province that everyone deserves equal access to strong public service,” Beare said.  

“We know that right now too many people are being left behind. They’re being left out. Public services have been designed for decades without them in mind. We know it’s harmful, we know it’s hurtful, and we know it needs to stop and it needs to change, so to put an end to the unjust practice, we need to focus on real information.” 

The survey was created through consultation with Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities in partnership with the anti-racism data committee, who was also present during Wednesday’s public engagement session.  

Elmore said the survey should also be used to hold officials accountable for creating systemic racism across all levels of government. 

“The sad reality in our history is that government has been the ones who have perpetrated harm against Indigenous and racialized people,” she said 

“To rebuild that trust, there needs to be engagement working together. We know it’s been the government who has been the cause of a lot of the trauma throughout our history. We’re going to hold governments accountable through all ministries, programs and services in terms of what steps are we taking to ensure that we’re addressing systemic racism and really removing those barriers. “ 

Education and health care are two areas of key focus, but both Beare and Elmore said they know many other areas need attention, which is the intent of the survey, to hear directly from the public what needs to change.   

One concern surrounding the survey and its results is ensuring racialized communities participate, as it was emphasized during Wednesday’s meeting that there is a historic lack of trust in governments from racialized people, specifically in Indigenous cultures.  

Beare acknowledged the feeling of distrust is valid, but she says collecting information directly from groups who have experienced historic systemic racism is vital. 

“We know there is hesitancy, which is why this is a very important part of the work that we do in the Indigenous communities,” she said 

“The goal of ending systemic racism and actually tackling barriers and understanding the reasons why there’s hesitancy can only be achieved through that data and by learning that knowledge. Which is why it’s vitally important that everybody fill this out so that we can together do the work of ending systemic racism.” 

The survey is active on the BC Government’s website until Sept. 29. Once the results are gathered, the province plans to take action immediately to address concerns and fill gaps.

– with files from Storrm Lennie, My Nelson Now staff

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