The ugly face of racism has dominated our media this week. And although the murder of George Floyd happened in the United States, we are all aware that we have our issues as well. There is lots of work to do here in Canada on equity. Racism expresses itself in unequal job opportunities, racial profiling, homogeneity in leadership, less access to higher education, incarceration trends, and lack of confidence in institutions that are supposed to keep us safe.
People with lived experience often say that the Canadian brand of racism is a little more subtle, but no less damaging in a country of people who want to believe we are a place of fair opportunity and equal treatment. It’s not enough to say you’re not a racist; if real change is to happen, and it must, we all have to become active, informed anti-racists.
I am proud that Ottawa City Council has introduced an Anti-Racism Secretariat under the leadership of Councillor Rawlson King who will act as Liaison to council on Anti-Racism. In the coming months, you will hear more about the work of the secretariat and the action they are planning to make our city a more just place to live and work. As the Council Liaison on Women and Gender Equity I look forward to working with my colleague Councillor King on intersectional issues.
In the meantime, it’s time for ordinary people to stand up and be counted as anti-racism advocates. Celebrate differences. Work to bring diversity into your personal circles, workplace and elected offices. Call out bigotry when you hear or see it. Teach children how to talk comfortably about difference. Speak up when you see disrespect or unfairness. Join with like-minded people to promote human rights. Create new opportunities. Listen and support people who talk to you about their experience of racism. Educate yourself. Don’t assume everything is fine.
Racism persists when decent people don’t speak up and do something about it.