Founding premise & role of the CRRF in the context of redress & reparations
"Whereas Canada as a party to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, has resolved to adopt all necessary measures for speedily eliminating racial discrimination in all its forms and manifestations;"
(It is important to keep in mind that Article 6 of CERD speaks to the right of victims to seek reparations and for states to comply):
The mandate of the CRRF further challenges that objective, through its role to, inter alia, support and promote the development of effective policies and programs for the elimination of racism and racial discrimination." (Act Establishing the CRRF). In its broadest possible interpretation, this mandate gives the Foundation the responsibility and autonomy to identify and pursue policies and programs, even if unpopular with the government, that will provide effective means of eliminating racism and other forms of discrimination. On this premise, the CRRF's role on the subject of redress and reparations is directive.
Since its establishment, the Foundation has taken a range of positions and interventions on the subject of redress and reparations for affected communities in Canada. For example,
CRRF Board of Directors Meeting #14, June 23, 2001
- On the matter of reparations for African descendants in Canada, the Board agreed that "the CRRF empathizes with the issue, and calls on the government and affected communities to engage in discussion about this issue. "
- While the Board indicated its empathy, the community expressed its concern that the Board did not propose any specific actions to facilitate or support this engagement. The African Canadian community continues to press the CRRF for more active support of and involvement in moving the agenda forward.
CRRF Edmonton Symposium, October, 2002: Post Durban
Among the CRRF priority actions adopted by the participants was the recommendation that the CRRF endorse:
- the Chinese Canadian Community and
- the African Canadian community in their call for redress and reparations.
CRRF Awards of Excellence Gala and Symposium, March 2003:
- An ad hoc Roundtable on redress was convened involving members of communities seeking redress, including Chinese, Ukrainian, African Canadian, Jewish, with a view to recommending strategies to continue the discussion and to bring the government to the table to continue the dialogue.
2002 - Committee for the New Denver Survivors
The committee contacted the Canadian Race Relations Foundation to seek its support in urging the Government of British Columbia to act on the findings of the Ombudsman of British Columbia in the matter of the forced confinement and assimilation of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobor Children. The Foundation has since
- highlighted the situation of the Children of New Denver and publicly acknowledged the CRRF's support for the claims of the Survivors.
- CRRF also included the information on the survivors in the briefing document submitted to the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism, Racial Discrimination, prior to his Canadian fact-finding mission in 2003
- The CRRF is in working with the Survivors committee on a process to document and memorialize their story.
May 9, 2003: News Release:
- CRRF participated in a news conference and supported the Chinese Canadian Community in their call for a formal apology and redress from the Canadian Government for the Head Tax and Exclusion Act.
- In the same release, the Foundation also acknowledged other communities seeking redress, namely, the Ukrainian Canadians; African Canadian communities, in particular the residents of Africville and the Black Loyalists; and the Doukohbor children.
Board of Directors' Meeting, Number 20, June 14-15, 2003, Toronto
Following the Chairperson and Executive Director's participation in the Chinese Canadian National Council Initiative on Redress, the Board agreed that:
- "redress should therefore be an issue that the CRRF continues to address and support. There are several communities seeking some form of redress from the government."
- There was consensus that "while we may agree with the concept in principle, we may not necessarily approve of specific demands of specific communities."
- "It was agreed that the Board should establish an Ad Hoc Committee involving board members who have direct contact with communities seeking redress. The committee would explore ways to approach the issue most appropriately."
- "Resolution 20.20: Motion that the Foundation endorse the Ukrainian community's progress on redress and endorse the establishment of an Ad hoc Committee to determine an appropriate course of action for the Foundation on the issue."
Media Interview , The Share Newspaper, March 2004
The Executive Director, made a statement reiterating the Foundation's willingness to facilitate dialogue between communities and government on the subject of redress and reparations. This was given in response to the UN Rapporteur's Report on his Mission to Canada, in which he highlighted the plight of the Africville community and the Chinese community's quest for redress.
Regional Seminars, -- Winnipeg, October 2003, March 2004
In conjunction with a CRRF Board Meeting, a community forum was held in Winnipeg in October 2003, entitled "The Last Spike" co- sponsored by the CCNC and the CRRF, to highlight the contribution of the Chinese Canadian Community and the call for compensation for the Head Tax and Exclusion Act. Speakers included the CRRF Chair and Vice-Chair. An ad hoc committee was formed further to this forum that was similar to the group that gathered after the AofE symposium the year before. They hosted a seminar in Winnipeg on March 27, 2004, which was co-sponsored by the Foundation. Speakers included representatives of the Japanese, Chinese, Ukrainian, Jewish, and Italian communities.
Particularly because of how and why the CRRF was founded, the adoption of a policy on redress and reparations has substantial significance for the Foundation, both within the domestic and international contexts. A clearly articulated position by the CRRF is important, particularly for discriminated communities who comprise the principal stakeholder group constituency for the organization. Some of the implications are enumerated as follows:
- Through such a policy, the CRRF can substantively delineate and uphold the right of discriminated communities and individuals to seek remedies that are appropriate and adequately address the injustices, without imposing limitations on what, if any, remedies communities should seek.
- A policy on redress and reparations is in keeping with the current evolution of policy positions and legislative framework that is being advanced within the international community and progressive anti-racism and anti-discrimination analyses
- A policy positions the Foundation on a level where, as a national institution, it can be instrumental in the "telling of the truth". It is in keeping with the CRRF's mission and mandate to acknowledge historical truths that have impacted the equality rights and plight of various ethno-racial communities and affected their role in the economic, political and social development of Canada.
- A policy statement establishes universal applicability for all discriminated communities, thereby precluding opportunities for arbitrary decisions for or against individual communities. It would enable consistency between the public's view of the Foundation's perceived and real role.
- 5. Given the impasse between the Canadian Government and the communities seeking redress and reparations, the CRRF can play a catalytic role in ensuring ongoing dialogue in this arena. This is in keeping with the Foundation's mandated role as a facilitator to provide expertise, arms length objectivity, and to increase and broaden knowledge in combating racism.