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 Timmins,
Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay 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. Madeline Chokomolin, a board member with the
Timmins Native Friendship Centre, coordinated the project here and recruited
an advisory committee.
"This project gave us
the information required to move forward," said Lyndsay Mollins
Keone, a member of the Timmins advisory committee.
"We can now engage more
people and organizations in the community to help us move forward and
make Timmins an even better place to live," Mollins Keone 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 hopefully the committee we have established in Timmins will
expand and spearhead the efforts to make Timmins a more accepting place
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 65-page
Timmins report is now available for downloading on the site, as are
the Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay reports.
In Timmins 89 people responded
to the questionnaires and 10 people were interviewed. The questionnaire
respondents were 56 per cent white, 39 per cent aboriginal and two per
cent black. Some did not answer that question.
Eighty-six per cent of all
racialized minorities, including 84 per cent of the aboriginal respondents,
said they observed incidents of discrimination based on race in Timmins
in the past year, and 63% had personal experiences.
One aboriginal questionnaire
respondent wrote, "It happens once a week or every two weeks. I'd
be walking with my girlfriend and people driving by or stopped at a
light would bang the side of their car and say something. I get that
a lot. It doesn't surprise me because I hear it so often."
For further information
please contact Don Curry at 495-8887 (W) or 472-0340 (H).