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.

Some of the ways you can experience racism is through:

  • Racial jokes or slurs

  • Stereotyping (assuming a group you’re part of has certain characteristics)

  • Vandalism of properties such as mosques, synagogues, and grave sites

  • Racial profiling (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

Racism is about more than just attitudes

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

Racial discrimination and harassment is illegal

In Canada, there are strong human rights laws that 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 every person equal rights and 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 emergency situations including:

  • A risk of physical injury

  • A risk of serious 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:

  1. Contact the Ontario Human Rights Commision for more information and support.

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

  3. Contact the Human Rights Legal Support Centre if you need legal advice or help filling out your application.