What is racism?

Racism is the belief that one group is superior to others based on how they look, where they come from, or what religion they practice.

What does racism look like?

Some of the ways you can experience racism are through:

  • Racial jokes or slurs

  • Stereotyping (i.e., assuming a group you’re part of has certain characteristics)

  • Vandalism of properties, especially those that are sacred to others (e.g., mosques, synagogues, grave sites, etc.)

  • Racial profiling (i.e., using race as a reason to detain, arrest, or investigate someone)

  • Being denied training, jobs, housing, etc.

  • Facing different standards at work

  • Being refused service at a restaurant or hotel

What is systemic racism?

Over time, racist attitudes have become an unfortunate part of our systems and institutions. These structures benefit people that hold power, and disadvantage communities that face racism.  

Systemic racism occurs when organizations, institutions, or governments discriminate, either on purpose or indirectly, against certain groups.

Canada has a legacy of racism, particularly towards Aboriginal persons, but also towards other non-white and non-Christian groups.

Some examples of systemic racism are:

  • Criminalization and over-policing of Black people

  • Longer wait times, fewer referrals, and disrespectful treatment of Indigenous patients

  • Denying jobs to Muslim women wearing hijabs

Is racism illegal?

In Canada, strong human rights laws protect people from being treated differently according to their race, ancestry, colour, place of origin, ethnic origin, citizenship, or creed.

The Ontario Human Rights Code gives everyone equal rights, opportunities, and freedom from discrimination.

Human rights must be applied:

  • At work

  • At school

  • In hospitals

  • In rental housing

  • In services including stores and malls, hotels, and recreation facilities

What do I do if I’m being discriminated against?

If you’re  in danger, or want to report a hate crime, contact your local police office.

Call 911 for emergencies, including:

  • A risk of physical injury

  • A risk of severe damage to property

  • Suspicion that a crime is in progress

To talk to an information and referral counsellor, call the Victim Support Line at 1-888-579-2888, or 416-314-2447 in the Greater Toronto Area.

You can also report incidents by:

  1. Contacting the Ontario Human Rights Commission for more information and support.

  2. Filing an application with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

  3. Contacting the Human Rights Legal Support Centre for legal advice or help filling out your application.

  4. Reporting an incident to the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

  5. Filing a report on Parents of Black Children's website.

  6. Calling the Black Youth Helpline toll-free at 1-833-294-8650.

How can I fight against racism?

If you want to stand up against the discrimination of people because of their race, you should learn how to be an ally.

An ally recognizes that some groups of people are more privileged than others, and is committed to stand up against the unfair, discriminatory treatment of others.

You can start to be an ally by:

  • Listening more than you speak 
  • Be open to feedback and criticism of your ideas and actions
  • Learn as much as you can about racism 
  • Support people and organizations that are trying to fight racism by volunteering, donating, and raising awareness   

These resources may also help you learn more and get involved: