Racism is not a disagreement.
Treating it as such is a mistake. It diminishes the magnitude of the problem by those who do not wish to undertake the hard work needed to address it.
A recent anti-racism rally Sunday (Sept. 20) in Red Deer was met with violence before the event could begin. Those who showed up to stand for racial equity in Canada were met with violence.
All while RCMP were present and witness to these hate-fuelled attacks.
Typically the RCMP's presence at an event like this is to ensure the peace is kept. Perhaps the officers on duty that day were so confounded by witnessing blatant acts of racism and hate toward people of colour and those exercising their charter right to protest peacefully.
We certainly were confounded by the events. Angry, outraged and downright disappointed are other reasonable reactions to video footage captured by news media. This is not what we expect of our fellow Albertans.
Now we look to elected leaders in this province and our communities to respond appropriately to what happened.
Not only should there be repercussions for those who committed these hate-based crimes, but also some accountability for those who were tasked with upholding the law yet stood by and watched while it was broken.
Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kaycee Madu should know above all else that deterrence and denunciation are principles of sentencing in the criminal code.
Not only should the racist attacks against protestors be prosecuted as hate crimes and to the fullest extent of the law given the aggravating circumstances, but an example must also be set when it comes to the inaction of RCMP present.
“As Minister of Justice, I have been publicly clear about this," said Madu on Tuesday (Sept. 22).
"Violence and threats of violence at peaceful protests are unacceptable. Period. All Albertans – regardless of race, religion or creed – have the right to live their lives peacefully. I denounce any instance of bigotry and intolerance, and I have said I will not tolerate this as justice minister and solicitor general.
“Disagreeing does not entitle one to use violence. We can and should disagree with public policy, and discuss issues without resorting to violence."
To be clear, racism is not a disagreement. Racism is not a difference of opinion. It is an affront to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Canadian values to suggest as much.
These are complex problems that require either lived experience or a master's degree in sociology to fully understand. Framing them as a difference of opinion fails to acknowledge the underlying problems that lead to systemic racism in the first place.
What needs to be considered to tackle the problem of fixing the system that reinforces racism are solutions that reduce poverty and addiction. Solutions that increase mental health supports, housing and affordable child care too.
The first step, however, must be a zero tolerance approach to acts or expressions of violence and hate targeted at Black, Indigenous people and people of colour.