Explainer: B.C.’s Anti-Racism Data Act

The province implemented its newest plan to find solutions to racial discrimination

The B.C. government passed the Anti-Racism Data Act to track systemic racism in the province. (Flickr/B.C. government)

The B.C. government passed the Anti-Racism Data Act to track systemic racism in the province. (Flickr/B.C. government)

The Anti-Racism Data Act is British Columbia’s newest agenda to track systemic racism affecting various ethnic groups, especially Indigenous Peoples. The act went into effect on June 2, after receiving full support from B.C.’s Legislative Assembly. 

The legislation is one of the first in Canada to be co-developed with First Nations and Métis communities under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act. Over 13,000 British Columbians were consulted through engagement sessions in their respective communities. 

“It is long overdue to finally move beyond institutionalized denialism and publicly commit to addressing anti-Indigenous racism in British Columbia, using the tools that are necessary such as data collection, information sharing and public reporting,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, in a government news release on May 2. 

The Grandmother Perspective by the B.C. Human Rights Commissioner, and the In Plain Sight reports were the groundwork of the anti-racism data legislation. 

The Grandmother Perspective focused on advocating for data collection to cultivate racial equity and strong public relations between ethnic communities and the government. The report’s aim was to develop foundational principles that the provincial government should hold when undertaking disaggregated data collection to address systemic racism. 

“Disaggregated data is merely a tool […] and it must be accompanied by a process that supports the purpose of reducing system racism and oppression and achieving equity,” reads the report. 

Widespread stereotyping and discrimination, limited access to medical treatment, Indigenous women and girls disproportionately impacted, current public health emergencies disproportionately impact Indigenous Peoples, and Indigenous health care workers face discrimination in their workplace were among the Indigenous-specific racism findings of the In Plain Sight report. 

The report included several “solutions” to address Indigenous-specific racism in B.C.’s health care system, such as working with Indigenous Peoples to reform hospital culture, educating medical students about the colonial structure’s impact on Indigenous patients, improving the complaints process in the health care system, and integrating Indigenous health practices and knowledge into the health care system. 

“A basic awareness has grown that the current inequities and injustices faced by Indigenous peoples in Canada – such as those examined in this Review – are deeply rooted in an enduring legacy of colonialism, and that confronting that legacy requires substantive, transformative change,” reads the report. 

In addition, a Statistics Canada report illustrated the need for legislation examining the rise in hate crimes in Canada towards Black, Indigenous, and people of colour (BIPOC) from 2019 to 2020. 

Ethnicities that experienced growing hate crimes ranged from Black communities with over 300 incidents, to Asian groups with over 200 incidents. 

“Indigenous Peoples accounted for five per cent of the Canadian population in 2020, but police-reported hate crime incidents targeting Indigenous people accounted for three per cent of hate crime incidents,” reads the StatsCan report. 

To protect people’s data, measures such as the Five Safes model will be used to ensure proper handling of information collected under the act. The model reduces the risk of data being accessed or used inappropriately by removing identifiable information from data collected, providing access to only specific individuals, and authorizing projects that don’t pose harm to individuals and communities, according to the B.C. government website

An anti-racism data committee will be established to collaborate with the provincial government to determine key research priorities and gather data to identify systemic racism in the public sector, according to a government news release on June 3. A voluntary population survey will be conducted by BC Stats by the end of this year, and the results will be released next summer.