Article by Sulaimon Giwa

A poll by Corporate Research Associates (CRA) about racial discrimination in Newfoundland and Labrador found that visible minorities—defined as non-Indigenous and non-White—had a one in eight chance of being discriminated against based on the colour of their skin.

Those under the age of 35 were more likely to have experienced racial discrimination than their older counterparts. Although 4 percent reported that they experienced racial discrimination five or more years ago, 9 percent said that they were the targets of racial discrimination in the last five years, suggesting that racism in the province has been increasing.

These results paint a different picture from that portrayed in the cultural narrative, which is that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, a predominantly white population, are friendly and warm. The experiences and stories told by generations of immigrants and visible minorities across Canada tell of a racism that is deeply rooted in the fabric of Canadian society.

Attempts to mask this reality with appeal to notions of “friendly,” “warm,” and “pleasant” only serve to conceal the ugly truth about racism in Newfoundland and Labrador, as in the rest of Canada.

The challenges of a rapidly aging population, a troubling fiscal outlook, and youth out-migration have put Newfoundland and Labrador in a disadvantaged position. The response to these challenges—namely, increasing immigration to the province—has not been the antidote that many expected.

In discussions about the outflow of immigrants to other provinces, there has been very little dialogue about the role of racism. The results of the CRA survey will hopefully help to expand that conversation beyond employment as a factor. This is particularly important if we are serious about retaining young people and immigrants from visible minority groups in the province.

Employment alone is not a remedy to the problem of retention. Young people and immigrants from visible minority groups must feel that they are part of their communities, and this must begin with recognizing and taking visible action against racism.

Employment alone is not a remedy to the problem of retention. Young people and immigrants from visible minority groups must feel that they are part of their communities, and this must begin with recognizing and taking visible action against racism.

It should become uncomfortable for anyone—but especially politicians—to talk about the virtues of immigration without invoking racist logic and practices that can and often do complicate the integration and settlement process for newcomers.

When we fail to talk about racism in a meaningful and public way, we deny our collective responsibility for eradicating it.

The absence of any reference to racism or discrimination in the provincial government’s immigration action plan report, The Way Forward, is telling. Even in the Telegram’s reporting of the CRA survey results, no single reference was made to the word racism, revealing our society’s uneasiness with the language and, perhaps, the concept.

By virtue of their economical, political, and cultural power, white people are the dominant racial group in Canadian society. This power comes with great responsibility. Bringing in immigrants from visible minority groups for economic growth is not enough.

Such a commitment must be matched with efforts to foster their success at every turn—in the workplace, in the school, and in society at large. These efforts must extend beyond the typical settlement services, to include a consideration of racism in everyday life.

Having frank conversations about racism’s effects on marginalized members of society is a step in the right direction. This understanding should be followed with concrete actions for mitigating those negative effects. White people must learn to shoulder the burden of racism without always relying on visible minorities to do the heavy lifting.

As the province works towards its 2022 target of 1,700 immigrants annually, the time to combat racism is now. Between 2011 and 2016, the Philippines, Syria, and China were the top source countries of immigrants to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Overall, visible minorities make up only 2.3 percent of the province’s total population. But the low number should not act as a deterrent for immediate and sustained action, given the stated higher percentage of self-reported racism in the CRA survey.

The racist and Islamophobic posters found at Memorial University and the blackface incident involving the local branch of the Law Enforcement Torch Run are overt expressions of racism. We should not forget about subtle racism; although hidden, it symbolizes contemporary manifestations of bigotry and intolerance.

If we continue to resist efforts to name and work towards the eradication of racism, as if Newfoundlanders and Labradorians were immune to the scourge of racism, we risk deepening racial inequalities at a great cost to the success and prosperity of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Dr. Sulaimon Giwa is an Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work and a member of the Anti-Racism Coalition—Newfoundland and Labrador (ARC-NL). He can be reached at