That’s despite the fact the Ottawa-Gatineau population has nearly doubled since 2006
The population of black Canadians in Ottawa-GatineauÂ has almost doubled over the last 10 years, but that increase doesn’t show up amongÂ senior positions in the region’s public institutionsÂ and businesses, according to some politicians, bureaucrats and settlement workers.
TheÂ black Canadian population in the regionÂ increased by 73.6 per cent between 2006 and 2016, nearly doubling from 45,000 to 78,000, according to Statistics Canada’s most recent data.
When we look at the two main birthplaces of the black populationÂ in Ottawa-Gatineau ,Â Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo come first.– HÃ©lÃ¨ne Â Maheux , Statistics Canada analyst
The increaseÂ is mainly due to risingÂ immigration from the West Indies and Africa, with moreÂ immigrants arrivingÂ from Africa than from Europe for the first time.
According to the data, 78Â per cent of black Canadians live on the Ottawa side, while 22 per centÂ live in Gatineau.
The CanadianÂ city with the largest population of black people is Toronto, followed by Montreal and theÂ Ottawa-GatineauÂ area â€” a ranking that was consistent in both 2011 and 2016.
“When we look at the two main birthplaces of the black populationÂ in Ottawa-Gatineau,Â Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo come first,” saidÂ HÃ©lÃ¨ne Maheux, an analyst with Statistics Canada, in a French-language interview with Radio-Canada.
“In Ottawa-Gatineau, 66 per centÂ of people reported African origins and 32 per centÂ of [people reported] Caribbean origins.”
‘There are systemic barriers’
This demographic boom, however, is not reflected in the numberÂ of black people present in public institutions and businesses in the Ottawa-Gatineau region, according toÂ Greg Fergus, the Liberal MP for Hull-Aylmer.
“When you look at the profile of newcomers or the black population in the area, you can see they are very well-educated â€” but they are not found in senior positions in the public service,” Fergus told Radio-Canada in French.
“You have to ask … why it’s like that [and]Â how can you fix the situation.”
Seven out of 338 MPs in the House of Commons are black â€” one of the highest percentages ever, but a sign there are still too few black Canadians in federal politics, Fergus said.
“I think there are systemic barriers that need to be crossed,” he said.
Public service ‘pitfalls’
Visible minorities accounted for 16.2 per centÂ of the federal public service workforce in 2016, a slight increase from the previous year.
ThatÂ data, however, “is not divided into subcategories” such asÂ black-Canadian,Â said Martin Potvin, aÂ spokespersonÂ at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.
Like Fergus, Larry Rousseau, the vice-president of the Canadian Labour Congress, also spoke of systemic barriers preventing black Canadians from climbing the civil service job ladder.
We [do] not recognize people’s skills. And that’s unfortunate.– Larry Rousseau, vice-president of the Canadian Labour Congress
“There are efforts to hire people. But once people are recruited, we saw that visible minorities, and especially blacks, remained at the level where they were hired,” saidÂ Rousseau, who once worked for Statistics Canada and was also vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
Rousseau said a worker mightÂ enter the public service with strong skills, but when thoseÂ skills aren’t recognized or exploited, the psychological impact can be devastating.
“We have seenÂ systemic pitfalls that resulted from racism and intolerance,” he said. “We [do] not recognize people’s skills. And that’s unfortunate.”
Rousseau said he does think the environment may be changing â€” in part because, in the lastÂ budget, the federal Liberal government announced aÂ $23-million investmentÂ over two yearsÂ to fight racism and promote multiculturalism.
Justin Trudeau’s government also said it recognized the important and unique challenges faced by black Canadians, promisingÂ $19 million over five years to support at-risk black youth. The money will alsoÂ fund programs for black people with mental health issues.
In addition, the Public Service Commission’s latest report has recognized that “it is essential to increase and improve communication activities in order to attract candidates from a variety of backgrounds.”
Younger, more educated immigrants
Black immigrants are increasingly educated and better equipped to integrate into the labour market, according to someÂ Ottawa-GatineauÂ newcomer settlement organizations.
“Immigrants who come to see us are very educated, compared to previous years,” said FranÃ§oise Magunira, a program manager at the Economic and Social Council of Ottawa-Carleton.
“We have many who have a university degree, and others who have a high school diploma,” she said in French.
However, there remains a lack of diversity among Ottawa-GatineauÂ entrepreneurs, said Nada Bensouda, the executive director of the National Capital Business Coalition.
“The reason, perhaps, why our membership is not [so diverse] is that we should work on our message and how to attract them to our group,” saidÂ Bensouda.
The coalition does not keep precise statistics on the number of black entrepreneurs in the region.
The integration of black Canadians into the local business community is “everyone’s business,” said George Philippe Jean, vice-president of the GatineauÂ Chamber of Commerce.
Last year, the chamber of commerce set up a cultural diversity group to showÂ entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds how to increase their visibility and promote their skills.
“This cause belongs to all [of us],” Jean told Radio-Canada.
“If we can increase the pool of black entrepreneurs in GatineauÂ â€” and if we manage to exploit their entrepreneurial skills, their expertise, their creativity â€”Â everyone will benefit.”
With files from Kimberley Molina, cbc.ca