Monday, November 9, 2020

Acknowledging and addressing systemic racism in Metro Vancouver, a forum hosted by the regional district

This Saturday, I virtually attended a forum on systemic racism facilitated by the Metro Vancouver Regional District. The forum started with a keynote presentation by Dr. Handel Wright, a professor in the Department of Educational Studies at UBC.

Dr. Wright started by saying that while Canada has an image of “too nice for racism problems,” systemic racism does exist in our country, province, and our communities.

Dr. Handel Wright, Professor, Department of Educational Studies, UBC

He noted some of Canada’s official past racist immigration policies such as the “prohibition of Asian race,” limiting immigration to ‘white’ countries, Chinese head tax, and turning away the Komagata Maru ship of 376 passengers from Punjab province in British India.

He mentioned the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War II, the Canadian branch of the KKK, and the horrific residential school program that continues to devastate Indigenous families and communities.

Dr. Wright stated that systemic racism still exists in Canada. While he gave a clear example of systemic racism, the continued killing and deaths of Indigenous and Black Canadians by police services in our country, he also noted some of the more subtle forms of systemic racism.

Dr. Wright noted that there is a lack of diversity within leadership and programs at his university. He stated that there was an absents of Black studies and “ways of knowing” at UBC.

He also noted an underrepresentation of Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour in elected positions within Metro Vancouver, one of Canada’s most diverse regions.

Dr. Wright gave people listening to the forum a call to action to address systemic racism.

One of the key takeaways was that we need more anti-racism allies in Metro Vancouver.

According to Dr. Wright, “an ally is a person who actively and in a respectful, sustained manner, engages in the struggle of a group that is marginalized or discriminated against, even though they themselves are not part of that group.”

An ally should listen when someone who is marginalized or discriminated against says that there is a problem and should act on solutions proposed by people who are marginalized or discriminated against.

This means that more Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour should be in leadership positions as mayors, councillors, and senior staff at the local government level.

For elected representatives, we need to ask and listen to people who are marginalized or discriminated against how we can remove barriers to running for office and senior staff positions.

As I signed off from the forum, the idea that stuck with me is that the best way to reduce systemic racism in Metro Vancouver is to ensure that Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour are in positions of leadership and are “at the table.” As local elected representatives, we need to ensure that our table reflects our region’s diversity.

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