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by Sumeet Dhami

In a one-on-one interview with OMNI Television, Canada’s minister of diversity and inclusion and youth Bardish Chagger emphasized the challenges and inequalities that Canadians have had to face over the past year ,and her goals going into 2021.

“COVID-19 has impacted all Canadians and disproportionately certain segments,” Chagger said.

“When it comes to the communities that I represent at the cabinet table, none of them are an exception.”

Chagger said that is why her work has become more crucial than ever, with $50M in federal funding coming in the new year, 85 new projects announced through the Anti-Racism Action Program, in the shadow of this year’s Universal Broadband Fund which aimed to help Canadians reconnect online during a time of social distancing.

On the radar for 2021

Chagger outlined three of her top priorities going into 2021, explaining that her ultimate goal as minister of diversity and inclusion and youth is to make “consciously inclusive” decisions.

“When you look at our open, transparent, merit-based appointment process we have made progress but we want to see more diversity represented at the decision-making table,’ she said.

“When we talk about this diversity it’s not just the shells, we occupy but diversity of regions, perspectives, genders, and the list goes on.”

Chagger also wants to see a end to the blood donation ban that excludes gay men from the donation process.

“The Government of Canada has invested in 15 research projects and we look forward to that research coming back,” she said.

“We’re hoping to see Hema-Quebec and Canadian Blood Services ask for the three-month deferral period for men who have sex with men, MSM, to be lifted so that’s something I would like to see progress on.”

Finally, Chagger would like to increase consultation with at-risk communities before making policy changes that directly affect them.

“A part of what we did in a response to the COVID-19 pandemic was the Anti-Racism Secretariat partnered with Women and Gender Equality Canada and having set up the Equity-Seeking Communities Task Force in response to COVID-19,” she said.

“So that makes sure that every single decision the government is making is actually conscious about who these programs are meant to support, measuring the outcomes and where needed, to course-correct. So, I really hope that we continue building upon that work as we enter 2021 and beyond.”

Tackling systemic racism and Anti-East Asian racism

Over the past year, Canada has acknowledged the systemic racism faced by Black and Indigenous communities as well as the negative impact COVID-19 has had on the Asian and East-Asian community. While Chagger admits building a multicultural society is a work in progress, she emphasized the three pillars of her government’s Anti-Racism Strategy: demonstrating federal leadership, empowering communities and changing attitudes through education.

The $15 million Anti-Racism Action Program funded 85 projects across the country in 2020. Chagger hopes to accelerate this work ever further next year after Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announcement of an extra $50 million towards such projects.

Other 2020 diversity projects rolled out this year include:

  • The Diversity Employment Network (DEN), developed by the Black Business Initiative in Nova Scotia, to address barriers to employment for the African-Nova Scotian community.
  • Containing and Countering Canadian Hate Groups, run by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, which will increase the monitoring of extreme-right groups, report on their activities, and file complaints with law enforcement.
  • Addressing Barriers to Enhance Access to Employment, Leadership Training, Support, Resources and Justice for Indigenous Young Women and Teenage Girls – This project, run by the Justice for Girls Outreach Society in Vancouver, will create opportunities for systemic changes that will improve the outcomes of Indigenous women and girls.

Navigating 2021 as a minority government

Following a difficult year that’s put a strain on the mental health, physical health and finances of many Canadians, many are wondering how the federal government will be able to maintain the trust of the population; particularly following the SNC Lavalin and WE Charity scandals.

Chagger said that being a minority government means they will work with all parties in the House of Commons to advance legislation for the benefit of Canadians. She also emphasized the importance of working with all levels of government; provinces, territories, regions, and municipalities to beat COVID-19.

Chagger used the adjustments made to CERB over the past months as an example of this.

Feedback from the community

Chagger mentioned the federal government are currently working on two major report,s and she is reaching out to hear directly from these communities. Young Canadians across the country are being encourage to add their input into the State of the Youth Report by December 31st 2020. Meanwhile, those who identify as members of the LGBTQ2+ communities are being encouraged to participate in the government’s LGBTQ2 Action Plan.

Watch the full report in Punjabi here: