Quebec Black Communities Observatory created to reduce inequalities

The Socio-Economic Summit for the Development of Young People announced the creation of the Black Communities Observatory on June 14, 2021. SOURCE: Sommet Socioeconomique pour le dev. des jeunes des communautes noires/Facebook

The Quebec Black Communities Observatory, an initiative that has been germinating for a long time, is now a reality.

Its focus will be to face the difficulties encountered by young Afro-Quebecers, propose concrete solutions and eliminate social inequalities.

"It's the idea of a community taking charge of its own destiny," said Edouard Staco, president of the Socio-Economic Summit for Black Youth Development.

The summit is one of 50 organizations that participated in the creation of the observatory, along with many other individuals, he notes.

One of its goals is to determine how anti-Black racism affects the socio-economic development of young people, adds observatory program director Desiree Rochat.

The observatory says it wants to dig up detailed findings and document the realities of different communities, which vary depending on where they live in Quebec, in order to propose solutions that are adapted to various experiences.

"The mandate is significant: African Quebecers belong to diverse communities. Although they face a common challenge, which is anti-Black racism, they also face different obstacles, especially for those who have recently arrived in the country," explained Rochat.

Quebec has nearly 320,000 people of African heritage or origin -- that's one in 25 Quebecers, Staco said.

"While about half of them are of Haitian origin, there are also many Quebecers who are of African or Caribbean descent -- and others are Black Canadians of old stock," he said.

The observatory was created with the financial support of the Fondation Lucie et Andre Chagnon and has a budget of $6 million over five years.

Although the observatory is independent of governments, it hopes that its work will be able to contribute to concrete actions in the coming years.

There are already many projects underway in the Black communities, "but to improve, to go further, we need more information," said Staco. "The first mandate of the observatory is, therefore, to study and document."

Some observations have already been made, it notes.

As an example, for more than 40 years, the unemployment rate of Black people in Quebec has been almost twice as high as the provincial average.

In Montreal, 26.5 per cent of women in Black communities have a university degree, compared to 36.2 per cent of women in general.

In addition, 18.2 per cent of children in Black families live below the poverty line, compared to 11.1 per cent of children in the general population in the city.

Rochat stressed the importance of understanding why, in both the educational and labour markets, young people reach certain levels, but fail to attain others.

Once that is understood, the observatory plans to propose solutions so young Black people will have the same opportunities as others.

WHY AN OBSERVATORY?

What is the need to focus specifically on the challenges faced by African Quebecers in comparison to other minorities?

"Racism exists towards many minority groups, including Indigenous people," states Staco, "but when you look at it as a whole, you can miss the mark. Some aspects of racism experienced by different minorities are similar, but others are different, which is why we need to look at the various groups specifically."

He gave the example of the stagnation in the standard of living of Black communities, which is not the case for Quebecers of Asian descent.

"The impact of racism is played out differently," said Rochat.

The observatory's work will be made public, as knowledge sharing is at the core of its mission, Staco adds.

"Wherever we've fought anti-Black racism, we've ended up with an improvement for everyone," he said. "The whole society is better off for it."

Staco points to the example of Martin Luther King's struggle, which changed a lot for African Americans, while at the same time expanding civil liberties for all.

The observatory's work will be in collaboration with grassroots organizations.

It will become an incubator for young researchers, concludes Rochat, who is also a community organizer and Doctoral student in education.

-- this report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on June 14, 2021.