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Trudeau Tells Citizens to Recognize That Racism Exists in Canada

At a reception marking Black History Month, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Canadians to recognize racism and unconscious bias against black people in his country.

Trudeau spoke on Monday at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec.

"It's time we hear — and believe — the stories of men and women who have been judged by the colour of their skin. It's time we take action to ensure equal opportunity and equal treatment of black Canadians in our schools and our places of work," Trudeau said.

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The prime minister used this moment to acknowledge the lack of elected black members in Parliament, pointing out the importance of making the House of Commons more reflective of Canadian citizens.

"It’s about time we realize that black history is Canadian history," he said, to cheers from the crowd.

Canada announced it would officially recognize the United Nations' International Decade for People of African Descent on Jan. 30. This decade spans from 2015 to 2024 and will recognize that people of African descent are a distinct group with rights to be respected and protected.

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It will provide the opportunity for recognition, justice, and development in the fight against racism and discrimination.

Trudeau said that advocacy groups for black Canadians have voiced concerns over the disproportionately high number of black individuals in prisons and about the lack of support for mental health, according to the Canadian Press.

He said the government is committed to working with the community to address obstacles facing black Canadians.

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Two new Canada Post stamps honouring the achievements of black Canadians were unveiled at the reception.

Former Ontario Lt. Gov. Lincoln Alexander was the first black Canadian to be elected to the House of Commons, appointed to the federal cabinet and named to a viceregal post. He is featured on one of the new stamps.

On the other is Kay Livingstone, the late activist who created the Canadian Negro Women's Association and the Congress of Black Women of Canada. She was named a person of national historic significance by the federal government in 2011, according to the Canadian Press.

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