Your City, My City

I was hesitant to read the Maclean's article, Welcome to Winnipeg: Where Canada’s racism problem is at its worst because the headline seemed like click bait to me and I am not sure if Maclean's is the best source for lessons on racism - here and here. (Full disclosure: my father was an editor at Maclean's from 1984 until 1996.)

Also - I wondered by what measure is Winnipeg the MOST racist city (it seems tweets is one and overhearing racist comments is another) and how is labelling it such helpful to what we need to be doing about racism in ALL Canadian cities ... and towns and villages.

That said, the article focuses on the unspeakable violence and discrimination faced by Aboriginal people and is a harrowing read.

After the article appeared, the mayor of Winnipeg called together some civic leaders and held a press conference.
When I watched this video, I couldn't help thinking about my own city and what might have happened if Toronto had been labelled the most racist city - the article does say that Ontario is second only to Manitoba in hate crimes.

The article says that the people of Winnipeg elected a mayor who is Metis without knowing it.
In the days after the election, Bowman was anointed the city’s first Metis mayor by local media, although his heritage came as a surprise to most Winnipeggers.
Well, we all know now.

The article says he is reluctant to address racism in his city
[Winnipeg Mayor Brian] Bowman, in an interview with Maclean’s shortly after his swearing-in, took pains to downplay talk of a racial divide in the city: “Racism affects many communities around the country,” he said. “I don’t like the tag—‘divided.’ It predisposes that everyone in different groups thinks a certain way. That’s just not the case.”
though this anecdote and quote appear later
Just before his official swearing-in, on Nov. 4, Bowman made a last-minute addition to his speech. He chose to open by acknowledging that council had gathered “on Treaty 1 land, and in the traditional territory of the Metis Nation,” a simple, but deeply moving nod. ...
“I see a real opportunity right now—with the level of engagement over these very serious and difficult issues—to make a difference,” Bowman told Maclean’s. “If my own family’s heritage can assist in building bridges in various communities in Winnipeg, then that’s an opportunity I fully intend on leveraging. I want to do everything I can.”
 In the press conference he speaks like the mayor of the second quote. I guess time will tell.

Over here in Toronto, we have replaced a mayor who was openly racist with one who cannot acknowledge white privilege. Or male privilege - here and here. Our openly racist former mayor continues as a city councillor.

Another way that Winnipeg is different from Toronto is that they have appointed a police chief who is Jamaican Canadian. He is the first black police chief in Canada. That in itself does not mean that Winnipeg policing is less racist than here of course,
Tyler Henderson, a 28-year-old Ojibway nursing student at the University of Manitoba, says he feels racism every time he walks out his front door. Henderson says Winnipeg police stopped him 15 times last year. “You fit the description,” police tell him when he asks what he did wrong. Once, police claimed he’d pulled to a stop a few inches beyond the stop line. “It makes me mad,” he says. “But there’s nothing I can do.” Some young indigenous men are stopped twice per month in the inner city, according to University of Manitoba criminologist Elizabeth Comack.
but Chief Clunis, according to the article, is encouraging Winnipeg address the issue of racism
...on Dec. 5, the city’s police chief, Devon Clunis, delivered more surprising remarks, calling on Winnipeggers to engage in a “difficult” conversation on the city’s ethnic divide. He asked residents to recognize white privilege, suggesting their “affluence” resulted from historic inequity. “Some people simply feel indigenous people choose to be a drunk on Main Street or they choose to be involved in the sex trade. No. We need to have those specific conversations—and try to understand why those individuals are living in those conditions.”

In Toronto, we have a police chief who had to be brought kicking and screaming to suspending the hated and hateful police carding procedures.

I guess we all need to have some of those "difficult" conversations - and then do something.

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