Here's how data collected in B.C. will be used to combat systemic racism in the province

B.C. is taking a step to address systemic racism in the province by introducing new legislation and collecting data in a culturally safe way.

The province announced the legislation Monday, saying it's the first of its kind in Canada to be co-developed with Indigenous communities. More than 13,000 British Columbians gave input on the new Anti-Racism Data Act with 90 per cent of racialized people saying demographic data could be a "positive step toward building trust between government and Indigenous Peoples and racialized communities."

"It is long overdue to finally move beyond institutionalized denialism and publicly commit to addressing anti-Indigenous racism in British Columbia, using the tools that are necessary such as data collection, information sharing and public reporting," said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, in a news release.

"If accurate data is not collected, then First Nations people are often not believed when we describe the impact of racism and discrimination against First Nations."

Phillip said the new legislation will bring change to how First Nations access and receive supports in the province.

Officials explained the data will be collected on a voluntary basis through a population survey, expected to be released in November. Some of the data collected could include details on ethnic origin, ancestry, faith, ability and gender identity. The first annual release of the statistics is scheduled for May 2023.

The province said the data collected under the new act "will help identify gaps in programs and services" for Indigenous, Black and racialized residents.

"The advantage of having comprehensive race-based data collection is that we can shape policies at the provincial level and then implement those throughout government and indeed throughout communities with confidence that we're doing so based on data, driven by the evidence," Premier John Horgan said during an announcement about the legislation.

Safeguards will be in place to ensure the data isn't used for harm and ministries will be required to follow careful guidelines before information is release publicly.  

"For far too long, our people have been disproportionately affected by systemic racism, whether it be in the legal system, medical system, government institutions or other areas of society, and this injustice has been invisible due to the lack of disaggregated data," said Chief Lydia Hwitsum, political executive of the First Nations Summit, said in a news release.

"This legislation will enable enhanced collection, analysis and utilization of data in a way that honours our rights to data sovereignty. Nothing about us without us."