Ashley Joannou

Published:March 24, 2022

-Edmonton Journal

A proposed NDP private members’ bill would require all government departments in Alberta to collect race-based data and report on key measurements around equity.

Bill 204 The Anti-Racism Act, tabled by NDP health critic David Shepherd in the legislature Thursday, would also create a new anti-racism office and commissioner to analyze the data and spot inequities in policies, programs and services.

“Systemic racism is often caused by policies, practices, and procedures that appear neutral on paper but in practice, they disadvantage racialized groups, and are often perpetuated by a failure to identify and monitor racial disparities so that real change can be mapped and implemented,” Shepherd said prior to tabling the bill.

Currently Alberta does not collect data based on race, but Shepherd said having the data will help all departments provide better outcomes for racialized Albertans.

“We must all collectively work towards making Alberta a place where everyone can be successful and we need the information on hand to build that road to success,” he said.

This is not the first time the UCP government has been pushed to collect race-based data.

Last June, a long-awaited report by Alberta Anti-Racism Advisory Council (AARAC) included multiple recommendations related to data, including calls to track interactions with the criminal justice system such as police stops and arrests, education and health outcomes, wages within Alberta’s public service, and housing.

“Anti-racism work is complex, systemic, and multifaceted and requires access to data that speaks to the progress being made and outcomes achieved,” the report says.

“Systematic data collection and analysis strengthen and affirm lived experiences of racism to better inform decisions made and actions made to tackle racism.”

In a statement Thursday, Roy Dallmann, press secretary for Labour Minister Kaycee Madu, said the government is committed to addressing racism.

“To ensure that all community voices are heard, both cultural and geographical, we are developing robust methods to appropriately collect, store, and use data,” he said.

“We will have more to say about the government’s response to the AARAC recommendations in the near future.”

In late 2020, chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said the health department was in the process of collecting race-based data surrounding COVID-19.

Alberta Health did not respond to questions from Postmedia seeking an update.

At the NDP press conference, Bukola Salami, an associate professor in the faculty of nursing at the University of Alberta whose research focuses on health and immigration policies, said data from other places in Canada shows Black people have worse educational outcomes, are more likely to be arrested and incarcerated, and have a higher prevalence of COVID-19.

Alberta needs data of its own, she said, “first, to uncover inequities that exist; second, to identify the factors that contribute to those inequities; third, to identify what can be done to address those inequities; and fourth, to identify interventions and policies that can best address health and social inequities and how different populations respond to those interventions.”

Private members’ bills, particularly those tabled by the Opposition, rarely become law. Now that Bill 204 has been tabled, it will be sent to a committee which has eight sitting days to consider what is being proposed and decide whether to recommend that the bill receive second reading.

When asked during question period Thursday whether they would support debating the bill in the legislature, both Madu and Health Minister Jason Copping avoided answering the question directly.

Madu said the NDP did not work to address racism when they were in power and pointed to decisions by the UCP government, including the 2020 ban on carding. Copping said his department was working with Indigenous people to address racism.