Tracking discrimination – Opinion/editorial – Tracking discrimination
November 18, 2008

The collection of race-based statistics remains controversial, but there are signs that Ontario is increasingly ready to accept this approach to tracking discrimination.

A wide-ranging report on youth violence, released last week, listed “the collection of race-based data in all key domains” as one of its priority recommendations. In response, Premier Dalton McGuinty has indicated he is seriously considering the idea.

So he should. There is little to be gained by deliberately ignoring evidence of discrimination that is potentially contained in race-based statistics. Indeed, “the need for race-based data is overwhelming,” write the authors of the report, former Ontario cabinet ministers Roy McMurtry and Alvin Curling. “Without data we can neither prove nor disprove the extent of racism in any particular part of our society.”

The Toronto District School Board has already opted to analyze student data that includes race. But a more comprehensive approach is needed. Queen’s Park should pay close attention to the report’s recommendation that a methodology for gathering these numbers be developed.

Fortunately, a great deal of work along these lines has already been done, notably in Britain, where the role of race is systematically examined in policing and the justice system, housing, health care, the labour market and all levels of education.

Opponents worry that these figures could be used to stigmatize Ontario’s minority populations. But that has not happened in Britain, nor is it likely to occur here. Rather, the shining of a cold, clear statistical light on the problem could very well help in rolling back discrimination.

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