Canadians are joining their American neighbours right now to stand up and demand an end to anti-black racism and systemic racism in our society.
The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week may have been the most recent incident of police brutality south of the border, but the history of racism in North America goes all the way back to its roots in colonialism and slavery.
We as Canadians and Albertans, however, have nothing to be proud of. Our own legacy of racism and intolerance – and government sponsored genocide – is shameful.
Black and Indigenous communities in Canada face the same realities that black and Native Americans have endured at the hands of law enforcement south of the border.
They experience higher rates of unemployment, lower income levels, higher incarceration rates, higher homicide rates, infant mortality and suicide, drug addiction and mental health issues, and lower life expectancy.
When we watch the sickening footage of a police officer kneeling on a black man’s neck for nine minutes until he stops breathing, ignoring his pleas to stop – this is racism and we must fight back against it.
When we look at how our social systems demoralize and oppress Indigenous and black communities – this is systemic racism and we must fight back against it.
From the civil rights movement, to Pride, to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action – those suffering under the weight of these systems that treat people as lesser human beings have been speaking up and out against this abusive system for long enough.
Now is the time for real change. Now is the time for elected officials at all levels to take a long hard look in the mirror and commit to being part of the solution, not the problem.
In Alberta, that responsibility to hold this government to a higher standard is in the hands of Premier Jason Kenney.
A great first step to show this acknowledgement and intent to tackle systemic racism would be for the premier to reverse the decision by his government this week to discontinue $1 million in funding for anti-racism initiatives in Alberta through the Alberta Human Rights Commission.
Provided to organizations that promote human rights and equality, the funding has helped start the website www.stophate.ca where Albertans can document hate incidents and a podcast produced by MacEwan University’s Office of Human Rights, Diversity and Equality.
The Common Ground Podcast discusses challenging and polarizing issues of racism affecting Albertans.
Hate crimes in the province have been increasing. According to Statistics Canada, there were 139 hate crimes reported to RCMP in 2016. In 2017, there were 192 and in 2018, 207 reported incidents. If only one in 10 incidents are reported, then this only represents a small fraction of what is really going on.
The Alberta Hate Crimes Committee looked at incidents reported from February 2017 to March 2020 and found that 69.7 per cent of reported hate incidents were motivated by race or ethnicity.
We are not suggesting $1 million will fix racism in Alberta. But eliminating anti-racist-initiative funding from the budget is symbolic that this government is happy to take a hard pass on its responsiblity to tackle the increasing hate in our province.
But we guess the Alberta government can’t afford conversations that promote equality, justice, empathy and compassion. That's not on brand for the UCP.
We should not let that stop us, however, from demanding more from elected officials and ourselves. It isn’t enough to be not racist anymore, we must be anti-racist and take this beyond gestures and words.
Stand up against acts of racism you encounter. Be an ally to people of colour and Indigenous communities who need to have their voices heard when it comes to real solutions.