Black, Indigenous and other racialized communities often have “very different experiences in accessing programs, processes, services that are provided by the provincial government”

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Supporters of a bill that would require the Alberta government to collect race-based data on all areas of its operations rallied Saturday after UCP MLAs dealt the bill a major setback.

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Bill 204, introduced by NDP MLA David Shepherd, would create an anti-racism office within the Government of Alberta and require all departments to collect data aimed at spotting racial disparities in government programs and policies.

The legislation effectively died last week when a UCP-majority committee declined to recommend it for debate in the legislature.

Around two dozen Bill 204 proponents protested the move outside the legislature Saturday.

The rally overlapped with an anti-COVID restriction “freedom rally” outside the nearby Federal Building, which created a tense moment when the flag-waving crowd marched past (and in some cases through) the Bill 204 event. After arguing with organizers, one of the freedom rally attendees eventually joined an Indigenous-led prayer circle organized by the Bill 204 proponents.

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Black, Indigenous and other racialized communities often have “very different experiences in accessing programs, processes, services that are provided by the provincial government,” Shepherd said in an interview.

Bill 204 would have required the collection of racially aggregated data “in all areas where we provide programs, processes, services within the Government of Alberta. So within the health care system, the education system, the justice system, within children’s services.”

Shepherd said some agencies already collect racial data, such as police services and the child welfare system. Such data revealed the over-representation of non-white citizens among those “carded” by police, as well as the disproportionate presence of Indigenous children in government care.

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Shepherd said community groups have called on the Ministry of Health to collect race-based data on the COVID-19 pandemic without success. Similar data collected in Ontario showed that “racialized communities have been disproportionately impacted by COVID 19.”

I have added that Alberta does not collect consistent statistics on graduation rates among Black and immigrant students.

“Unfortunately it seems with the UCP government there’s simply no will to even discuss it,” he said.

UCP MLA Devinder Toor voted against recommending debate on Bill 204. He called the idea “noble” but said he needed to hear more consultation on the topic.

— with files from Ashley Joannou

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