Report says racism in city
must be addressed
Anti-racism educators in
Northeastern Ontario have known for years there is a serious issue that
must be addressed, but they have never had the data to prove it. Until
A three-city study in North
Bay, Timmins and Sault Ste. Marie has concluded the issues are almost
identical in each city and discrimination against native people is widespread.
"However, the majority
of people said they like living in their particular city, so there is
a positive base on which to move forward," said three-city project
director Don Curry.
The project, named Debwewin,
the Ojibwe word for truth, involved the dissemination of questionnaires
to the public, printing the questionnaire in local newspapers, follow-up
interviews, cross-cultural training sessions in each community, media
relations training for anti-racism practitioners, creation of a new
web site at www.debwewin.ca full of resources, and a print media monitoring
The nine-month project, funded
by the Department of Canadian Heritage's Multiculturalism Program, was
a partnership between Communitas Canada of North Bay and the Union of
Ontario Indians, with advisory committees and facilitators coordinating
the project in each city.
"While we learned from
first-hand reports that racism is a serious issue in North Bay, we also
received significant input on what we can do about it," said Susan
Church, advisory committee chair for the North Bay component.
"While many of the comments
printed in the report are disturbing, others point to the good things
we are doing in the community and urge us to increase our efforts,"
Curry, who read all the questionnaires
and listened to all the taped interviews from each city, said he noted
racist comments made by people who claimed not to be racist. He said
he also read comments from native people who have heard and seen enough
and don't even react to racism anymore.
"But then there are
the fighters. The native people who speak out when they are being discriminated
against and contact the store manager, the school board director, the
hospital CEO and demand an apology. We heard from a lot of them and
these are the people who will cause change to occur," he said.
"But we can't put the
onus for reform on those who are facing discrimination. The project
report has a number of recommendations that we will work on with community
leaders to make North Bay a more accepting place to live."
Curry said stores and restaurants
in all three cities were the locations where racial incidents occurred
most, with schools second. "That tells us that while the education
system definitely has to be a major part of the solution, right now
it is also part of the problem."
In North Bay 110 people responded
to the questionnaires and 10 people were interviewed. Fifty-eight per
cent of the respondents were female, with 60 per cent of the female
respondents aboriginal and 35 per cent of the males.
Seventy per cent of the native
questionnaire respondents said they observed incidents of discrimination
based on race in North Bay in the past year, and 45% had personal experiences.
One native questionnaire
respondent wrote, "Discrimination against native people in North
Bay is widespread. In finding an apartment, going shopping, eating out,
"Virtually every aboriginal
person I know has had issues in stores related to the status card,"
said Maurice Switzer, director of communications for the Union of Ontario
Indians and a project leader. "This study documents what all of
us have known for years. The general public is not very knowledgeable
about treaty rights. Racism is an issue and we must work together as
a community to create solutions."
Switzer's report on the print
media monitoring component of the project will be made public next week
and available on the project web site at www.debwewin.ca. The full 67-page
North Bay report is now available for downloading on the site, as are
the Timmins and Sault Ste. Marie reports.
For further information
please contact Don Curry at 495-8887 (W) or 472-0340 (H).