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 Sault
Ste. Marie, North Bay and Timmins 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 of North Bay.
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. Unity and Diversity Sault Ste. Marie led the
"Now that we know we
have serious issues to deal with we can encourage everyone to get involved
in helping us move forward," said Max Iland, chair of Unity and
Diversity Sault Ste. Marie.
"We have good suggestions
from the participants and strong recommendations to help us make Sault
Ste. Marie more inclusive," Iland said.
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 and Unity and Diversity will spearhead the efforts to make Sault
Ste. Marie 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."
"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 64-page
Sault Ste. Marie report is now available for downloading on the site,
as are the Timmins and North Bay reports.
In Sault Ste. Marie 239 people
responded to the questionnaires and 13 people were interviewed. The
questionnaire respondents were 61 per cent white, 28 per cent aboriginal
and 11 per cent other racialized minorities.
Seventy per cent of the aboriginal
questionnaire respondents said they observed incidents of discrimination
based on race in Sault Ste. Marie in the past year, and 52% said it
happened to them personally. Sixty-two per cent of racialized minority
respondents saw it occur in the past year and 40 per cent said had personal
One aboriginal questionnaire
respondent wrote, "The Sault has two faces and hides one very well."
For further information
please contact Don Curry at 495-8887 (W) or 472-0340 (H).