Over the years there have been calls to retire the term ‘visible minority’ in Canada, but it is still a widely used, misused or abused term for lack of a better replacement.
The issue about its use has been raised by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on several occasions. The body has been critical of the Canadian government’s use of the term, observing that it is out of step with the “aims and objectives” of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. One member bluntly stated that the use of the term ‘visible minority’ indicated that whiteness is the standard while other colors are not ideal.
Those in favor of the term “visible minorities” consider it nothing more than a working term.
Most minorities have no qualms or shame in being called ‘visible minority’ especially if it means they will receive favorable treatment, land a promotion or advance their career in anyway. I know of South Asians who gleefully tick mark YES to the question “Are you a visible minority?” In fact they wear it as a badge of honour. They would even go so far as to claim they were members of ‘backward classes’ if it meant a bigger payday! What would get under their skin is being referred to as dark skinned. South Asians are notoriously conscious of their color even as they embrace the use of the term ‘visible minority’ with all its loaded meaning.
But the issue with ‘visible minority’ is more about whether its use is even relevant in places like Vancouver, Toronto, Mississauga and Brampton where visible minorities or rather non-whites make up 60 percent of the population.
In reality ‘visible minority’ can be construed to be less offensive than non-white, another term that suggests whiteness is the standard, all shades go below, from light to dark.
In Peel Region it is safe to say that whites are the new ‘visible minority’ and perhaps the term should be used to reflect the current demographic reality in different regions of country if at all that term is to work at all. Then the term could be used without its loaded meaning. Anyone could be depending on demographic changes to a region be referred to as a visible minority, even whites.
In some neighborhoods and schools in the GTA, ‘visible minorities’ make up 90 percent or more of the population so much so that the odd white person sticks out rather prominently. Those few white kids stranded in such schools should be called a visible minority.
The only places where the term ‘visible minority’ happens to be relevant are City Halls in Mississauga, Brampton and Surrey where City Councillors and mayors in the GTA happen to be mostly ‘white’ while the odd councillor is ‘non-white’ or a ‘visible minority’.