Canada’s racial divide: Confronting racism in our own backyard

Canada’s racial divide: Confronting racism in our own backyard

The Globe and Mail

Tavia Grant, Reporter

Nova Browning Rutherford, who is half black and half white, and has lived in Ontario, Alberta and Los Angeles, poses for a photo at her home in Mississauga, Ont. on Friday. (Michelle Siu for The Globe and Mail)

Growing up in Jacksonville, Fla., Rhonda Britton experienced occasional moments of racism. As the only black girl in her junior-high class, she was once told by a white friend that she wasn’t allowed to come over and play.

But it was when she moved to Canada as an adult that she felt racism more overtly: In 2011, she discovered a historic plaque in front of her church in Halifax spray painted with the words: Fuck All Niggers.

It was a shock, and not the only one: She’d expected Canadians would be kinder and more welcoming than Americans.

But in Nova Scotia, where a large, historic black community has long faced racial discrimination, racist acts are both subtle and blatant…

…Like Dr. Britton, Nova Browning Rutherford has lived in both countries. She was born in Chatham, Ont., to a black father and white mother, and raised in Edmonton and London, Ont., before spending five years in Los Angeles.

She says that a big difference in the U.S. is the separation of people based on race or ethnicity. She often felt pigeonholed. “Black people don’t do that,” she was told when she’d mention to colleagues she was going hiking, or out to a Korean restaurant.

She feels relieved to now live in Toronto. But any notion that Canada is morally superior vanishes when she thinks of the deep disparities in living conditions of indigenous peoples…

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