Racism in Canada (1950's to present)

In the 1950's

A Black carpenter and veteran of WWII was ostracized and his business boycotted until he was eventually forced to leave Dresden, Ontario because of his leadership to desegregate local restaurants and barbershops. His and other black families had been residents of Dresden since the 1850's.

Until 1951, Windsor bars had separate sections called "jungle rooms" for Black patrons.

In the 1950's, Joe Drummond, a Black resident of Saint John, New Brunswick, could not get a haircut anywhere in his own city.

In 1954, the Prime Minister of Barbados, Grantly Adams, was denied a room in a Montreal hotel due to "regulations".

First Nations children were routinely taken from their families and put into residential schools to "unlearn" their culture and language.

In the 1960's

In the 1960's, anti Semitic slogans were painted on buildings in Montreal and carved on objects at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto

In 1964, local school board officials had left a run-down all Black school in operation in a rural area near Windsor, Ontario, while White children from the area were bused to a newly constructed consolidated school some distance away.

In 1964, the city of Halifax began dismantling Africville, an all Black community and relocating its residents .

In the 1970's and 1980's

In the early 1980's, Stanley Barrett, an anthropologist who studied the rise of right-wing, racist organizations in Canada identified 161 right-wing organizations active during this period.

Of these, 79 groups are those whose members identify themselves as racists and anti-Semites who promote violence to achieve their goals.

In 1973, during a hockey game, a 16 year old Black youth got into a fight with a White opponent which ended with the death of the later. At the subsequent trial for manslaughter, witnesses testified that during that game and on previous occasions the Black youth had been called "nigger" by not only players but also parents who were spectators.

In the spring of 1975, a 15 year old black youth was shot to death by a white assailant. The shooting itself was not necessarily racially-motivated, but the words "no more nigger meetings" was written on a wall at the church funeral.

In 1976, a 49 year old Tanzanian suffered crippling leg injuries when two white youths pushed him off a subway train in Toronto. No other passengers made an effort to help the victim. On the same night, a 16 year old Asian from East Africa and two cousins from New York were beaten by three whites on another subway train in Toronto.

Early in 1977, a young man from Guyana was knocked down by several white men who called him a "Paki". They responded violently when he attempted to explain that he was not from Pakistan. This also occurred in Toronto.

As late as 1973 a residential section in Vancouver was characterized by the fact that each property deed said that persons of Asian and African descent could not stay overnight except if they were domestic servants.

A survey of Ontario real estate agencies in the 1970's showed that 27/30 agencies contacted agreed that they would sell to "white's only" if so requested.

In 1979, the CTV-W5 program aired a very racist attack on foreign, especially Chinese, students ad argued that well qualified "Canadians" were being denied entrance because of the number of Chinese foreign students. The Chinese community organized a strong protest and the CATV president was forced to issue a public apology for the racist program.

A 1980 survey of employment agencies in Halifax, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver carried out by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association found that 17 of 25 randomly selected agencies were willing to provide employers with "whites only" workers.

In 1980, a Manitoba 4-H club exchange with the same organization in Ontario was cancelled because the later included Aboriginal Canadians amongst its membership.

In the 1980's there was tremendous racism directed against migrant farm workers in the Okanagan Valley in BC. To quote one researcher: "It's the worst racism I've ever seen. It is institutionalized at every level of the community. The local people are just choking themselves on hate." (Vancouver Sun, 20 August 1983)

A Toronto announcer for CKFM who thought his microphone was turned off described the Toronto Carribana festival as "four million niggers jumping up and down".

In 1981, a lighted 5 gallon canister of gas was tossed through the window of a South Asian family's home in BC. The following month, one mile away, another South Asian family had a Molotov cocktail thrown through their window.

In 1981, an Asian female student on a Commonwealth scholarship was kicked and insulted on a Western Canadian street; she said she had come to Canada because she was told that Canada, unlike Britain, was free of discrimination.

In 1984, in a small town near Toronto, swastikas were painted on windows and the front. door of a synagogue and posters of Hitler were attached to utility poles.

The common suggestion that only education will eliminate such racism is highly doubtful when one realizes that racism is alive and well at educational institutions also

In Sydney, Nova Scotia, a typed notice appeared on a high school bulletin board announcing an "Annual Nigger Jamboree: with the feature event being the sport of "Broom a Coon". The notice also stated that "all coons in the school at this time should be beaten to death or at least crippled". (Late 1980's)

Any visit to a university campus will allow one to see racist graffiti in all the usual places.

In the 1980's, the Black community filed a complaint with the Human Rights Commission, on the basis that Black children were receiving an inferior education. They won.

A Mi'kmaq speaker was invited to give a presentation during Mi'kmaq History Month at an elementary school. As he was writing syllabics on the board a teacher came into the class and accused him of using "pagan" symbols. He was writing the Lord's Prayer in Mi'kmaq. (1996)

Statements of a racist nature by prominent politicians also serve to legitimize racism. The initial attraction of Hitler's Germany to Canadian Prime Minster Mackenzie King is well known. In the more recent past, many Tory MPs have made visits to South Africa, returning only to defend the virtues of apartheid (Well fitting since the Indian reserve system in Canada was the model South Africa used when implementing apartheid). In 1978 an MLA in Manitoba argued for student fee increases since "universities were only educating niggers and chinks anyway"'. Recently, Reform MP have made statements likening the indigenous people of this country to "spoiled children who have come to rely on their rich uncle" and therefore require some much needed discipline. One MP said that he felt it was alright to fire a black person or put them in the back room if they were keeping customers away.

Between 1988-1990 three black men were killed by police in or near Toronto. A young black woman was also shot by a police officer and was permanently paralysed. Members of the Black community who demanded public inquiries were labelled "Black extremists", while the police force mobilized opposition to inquiries through a "Cops are Tops" campaign which demanded the dropping of charges against one of the officers involved.

A Nova Scotia high school was torn apart by racial violence between White and Black students. Of the many Whites and Blacks involved, a subsequent trial found only three Blacks convicted of any illegal acts.

Toronto police raided a church, usually regarded as a place of sanctuary, and falsely arrested five innocent Black youths.

A Toronto judge dismissed all charges against a Black citizen after it was established in evidence that he had been persistently harassed by the police on an average of three times per week for an extended period of time.

A considerable public opinion backlash emerged against the financial compensation given to the Japanese-Canadian community in recognition of the racist internment carried out by government authorities during WW II.

The Federal Government continued to refuse to provide equivalent compensation to Chinese-Canadians for the Head Tax their ancestors were obliged to pay to enter Canada as cheap labour earlier in the century.


The Sikh community was the brunt of widespread racist comment and media abuse in response to their right to wear the turban as RCMP officers and to wear the ceremonial dagger in public institutions (schools).

Justin Johnson, who was a teenager from the Millbrook reserve, was repeatedly harassed during hockey games being called "wagon burner" and "dirty Indian".

During the time of moose harvesting in Nova Scotia in 1991, during which there were native participants, some white participants had shirts that said "Save a Moose. Kill an Indian".

There were "riots" in Halifax in 1992 after the racist activities of the bar owners were exposed. Employees were told to find reasons why Black patrons should be denied entry, often while their white counterparts had no difficulty entering bars.

In Bible Hill, NS a Lebanese businessman had a cross burned in front of his store.

Racism in Employment Practices:

Despite the existence of Affirmative Action legislation at the Federal, Provincial, and often municipal levels, there has been no significant increase in the hiring of "persons of colour/visible minorities" in recent years. Analysis of companies obliged by law to file survey data on the composition of their workforce shows that employers continue to hire and promote White, able bodied men for the more desirable, better-paying jobs.

The 1996/97 school year has already seen a number of schools in the news regarding racism (Riverview, Cole Harbour, Hants East , CEC, Breton Educational Centre). Many other similar incidents did not attract media attention, but occurred in schools across the province


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Developed by Kate R. Wang
Last updated: 01/06/2003