How do I deal with racism and xenophobia?

If you experience racism and xenophobia, there are a few things you can do personally to help you cope and actions you can take to hold someone accountable if you choose to do so.

What is racism and xenophobia?

According to the Ontario Anti-Racism Act, racism is discrimination on the basis of race, skin colour, or ethnicity. It is systemic, which means it is supported by policies, practices and procedures that appear neutral but may disadvantage some groups. People who are not white and/or not christian may experience racism.

Xenophobia is the dislike or fear of people from other countries other than your own.

What forms can it take?

Racial and xenophobic harassment is when someone harasses you based on your race, skin colour, creed, ancestry, origin, ethnicity, or citizenship. It may be:

  • Direct racism or xenophobia such as racist slurs, jokes, negative remarks about your background or race, or mocking your accent, clothing or religion.

  • Indirect racism or xenophobia such as not being selected for job interviews because of your last name, or being “randomly” chosen for a security check.

Is it illegal?

It is illegal for services and employers to discriminate against you on the basis of your race, skin colour, creed, ancestry, origin, ethnicity, or according to the Human Rights Code of Canada. For example, it is illegal for a coffee shop to refuse you service for those reasons. 

Personal acts of racism or xenophobia are not illegal. However, if a person inflicts violence against you in order to terrorize, intimidate or harm other members of your ethnic community, this may be considered a public incitement of hatred, or “hate crime” according to the Criminal Code of Canada. It can have serious legal repercussions.

How do I address racism and xenophobia?

You don’t have to tolerate being harassed in any form. A few steps you may want to take if you have experienced racism or xenophobia:

  • If you feel safe doing so, you may want to talk to the person.

  • If you do not feel safe confronting the person, speak to a person of authority, such as a manager.

  • Call 911 if you are in immediate physical danger.

  • If this happened at work, you may want to discuss this with your supervisor or Human Resources department.

  • If this happened at work, while you were accessing a service, or if you believe this is a hate crime, you may want to contact the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario by calling 1-866-598-0322 or 1-800-855-0511 (TTY). 

  • If your child was involved and it was in their school, you can contact the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth at 1-800-263-2841.

What kind of personal support can I get?

If you have experienced racism and xenophobia, you may want to:

  • Talk to others for support; this may not be an isolated incident

  • Contact ConnexOntario’s crisis line at 1-866-531-2600 to get help. They have translation services available if you need to speak in a language other than English and French.

  • If you live in Toronto, you may want to access the services at Across Boundaries and Women’s Health In Women’s Hands. These organizations both focus on mental health support for people who are racialized.

For more information

Last updated: July 11, 2019 4006392