Reacting to Winnipeg’s race-relations talks
JENNIFER DOERKSEN, CONTRIBUTOR
After the crowds dissolved and The Forks cleared out, Winnipeggers were left with the messages from last month’s race-relations summits.
So what did they hear?
“The problem with race relations in this city is that there are not enough opportunities to have conversations that are in safe spaces,” said Lenard Monkman, Aboriginal Youth Opportunities (AYO) leader. “I think that’s the most important thing going forward, to create that safe space for dialogue or create those opportunities to educate each other.”
One: The Mayor’s National Summit on Racial Inclusion was at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights from Sept. 17 to 18. Another event, Our Summit, was held at the Oodena Celebration Circle on Sept. 17.
Our Summit was organized by Monkman and other AYO members. After hearing how much tickets for the first summit cost ($50 each or $25 for students) and the number of speakers who are not from Winnipeg, the group decided to create an alternative event. Our Summit included local speakers like Manitoba Muslim leader Shahina Siddiqui and CBC radio host Rosanna Deerchild. Alongside organizers, speakers discussed their own experiences with racism in Winnipeg.
The summits were created partly as a response to the January Maclean’s magazine article, which labelled Winnipeg as Canada’s most racist city. While they’re meant to create dialogue and a discussion around racism in the city, some RRC students say the message was really just repetition.
“I think, to an extent, it might be a step in the right direction,” said Joanne Peters. “A lot of it is bigger than that, right?”
The 47-year-old business administration student said the people at these summits are probably the ones who support the message already. So while it’s a good idea, more needs to be done.
“Just going to a session, the people who are going are likely the people who are going to be more accepting of racial diversity,” she said. “Because if you’re like ‘no, I don’t like these people,’ you’re not going to attend a session like that. So I think it’s good, it makes a difference, but with people who are already more open to it.”
Anny Chen, a volunteer at Our Summit, told her story of growing up with immigrant parents living in a five-bedroom house. The service-learning coordinator from the University of Manitoba said at one point, she had 14 other people living with her.
“The best way to change racist attitudes is to get to know each other and understand at least one another’s story,” said Chen.