Talk about ending racism

The mayor organizes a summit to discuss racism in Winnipeg

Scott A. Ford

Mayor Brian Bowman is taking steps towards reducing racism in Winnipeg.

On Sept. 17 and 18, One: The Mayor’s National Summit on Racial Inclusion will be taking place at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR).

This is a direct reaction to the Maclean’s article that named Winnipeg the most racist city in Canada. One week after the article was published, the City of Winnipeg launched, a site where residents could voice their opinions on how to end racism.

Two common themes of the feedback were that people needed to be educated and that leaders should be brought together to deal with the issue, and that is what the summit will address. There are a number of people who are doing anti-racism work in Winnipeg and across Canada who will be speaking.

Comedian and speaker Aisha Alfa is flying in from Toronto to moderate a panel titled “Recognizing racism in our communities and ourselves.”

“I think it’s a great thing that he’s doing,” says Alfa about Bowman.

Alfa says that talking about the issue in an open and positive way will at the very least make people aware of what is going on.

While Alfa admires Winnipeg for being a progressive and attractive city, she realizes that racism is an issue and thinks that if people get to know one another and better understand the experiences of people who are subjected to racism, it will improve the city.

With CMHR attracting more tourists to the city, Alfa says this is especially important.

“I really hope that there are more of these types of events,” says Alfa.

Ira Udow will be another speaker. As co-founder of the Winnipeg Cultural Diversity Project, he is involved in the UNESCO Associated Schools Network, working to educate Grade 5 and 6 students about cultural diversity.

“That really fits with the summit’s purpose,” says Udow, who will be sharing his experiences at a panel discussion titled “What works? Good practices in promoting healthy race relations.”

He thinks that the summit is a good start towards addressing the issue of racism in Winnipeg.

“This is a way of bringing the community together,” says Udow. “I’m hoping that the people who are attending will have an opportunity to hear about the various initiatives going on in Winnipeg.”

With knowledge of the work being done, he thinks it will encourage more people to get involved in the fight to end racism.

Despite being billed as inclusive to all, the summit sold out early and a waiting list was created, leaving some citizens out of the process. 

Some of those who were concerned about the exclusiveness of the Mayor’s summit have decided to hold their own summit instead.

The alternative event, The Local Racial Inclusion Summit, is being held on Sept. 17. Attendees will be discussing the issue of racism in Winnipeg, including what can be done to make changes. This separate event will be taking place at 6 p.m. at Oodena Circle at The Forks Market.

Published in Volume 70, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 17, 2015)

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