Anti-racism min­is­ter: ‘Lot of work’ needed here


The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - JOANNA FRKETICH

There is a lot of work to be done in Hamilton, con­cludes On­tario’s anti-racism min­is­ter af­ter spend­ing a day in the city.

Michael Coteau, who is also the min­is­ter of chil­dren and youth ser­vices, talked with about 20 peo­ple aged 30 or younger Thurs­day about their ex­pe­ri­ences with in­tol­er­ance.

Racism has al­ways been in Hamilton, said Coteau. There is just more aware­ness since the U.S. elec­tion in Novem­ber.

He be­lieves ed­u­ca­tion is the best way to com­bat it.

Coteau talked with The Spectator on Fri­day about how Hamilton can be part of the so­lu­tion. This in­ter­view has been edited for length.

What were the main mes­sages from the meet­ings in Hamilton Thurs­day?

The big mes­sage I got from the peo­ple is that there is a lot of work to be done in Hamilton. The young peo­ple I spoke to talked about some of the chal­lenges they have. The pieces around Is­lam­o­pho­bia and other forms of racism were brought up. The big­gest piece that was brought for­ward is that Hamilton wants to be part of this pro­vin­cial so­lu­tion and they have a lot to con­trib­ute.

You went on a tour in the fall. What were the main things you found?

We learned about feel­ings and at­ti­tudes around anti-black racism, in­dige­nous racism and Is­lam­o­pho­bia, which seems to be ris­ing here in the prov­ince. The things I would say that came out the most in all our con­sul­ta­tions, in­clud­ing Hamilton, is that you have to fo­cus on aware­ness and pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion … Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties need to be part of the pro­vin­cial so­lu­tion and the an­tiracism direc­torate re­ally needs to be set up in a way that al­lows for it to sur­vive the changes of gov­ern­ment.

How have your strate­gies to com­bat racism changed since the U.S. elec­tion?

We saw what hap­pened in Que­bec. We see the rhetoric that is com­ing out of the United States. But let’s make no mis­take, I was in Hamilton in the fall and I went to the mosque that young men tried to fire­bomb. Th­ese types of acts of ha­tred ex­ist in On­tario and they have ex­isted for years. There is prob­a­bly a height­ened sense of aware­ness. I’m not sure if there is an in­creased amount of in­ci­dents. But I do know peo­ple are shar­ing more in­for­ma­tion now about th­ese in­ci­dents that are tak­ing place. I think now more than ever is the time for us to con­tinue to move in this di­rec­tion.

What do you see as the best so­lu­tions?

The No.1 thing we heard across the prov­ince that I would agree with is pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion and aware­ness … Get­ting peo­ple aware of the fact that in Canada ev­ery sin­gle per­son out­side of our in­dige­nous com­mu­nity has a new­comer past. It could be two or three hun­dred years or it could be two or three years, but we all come from some­where else. It is hav­ing peo­ple un­der­stand that when we do have new­com­ers com­ing here, they are do­ing the same thing my par­ents did or some­one’s grand­par­ents did. It’s to find a bet­ter life for their chil­dren, their fu­ture and them­selves.

We’ve had a lot Syr­ian refugees come to Hamilton — more than 1,100. Have you found is­sues with racism to­ward this group?

You hear it con­stantly where peo­ple say, “We should take care of our­selves be­fore we take care of other peo­ple” or “There are too many refugees com­ing in.” You hear that type of rhetoric all the time … We have 250,000 peo­ple com­ing in each year to this coun­try. They are all new­com­ers and they are all from dif­fer­ent parts of the world. As Cana­di­ans, the best thing we can do to con­tinue to build a strong econ­omy, to build a strong coun­try and to share those val­ues, is to re­ally em­brace those peo­ple and look for ways to make sure they are set up for suc­cess.


The Spectator’s Joanna Frketich spoke with Michael Coteau, On­tario’s anti-racism min­is­ter. Coteau is also min­is­ter of chil­dren and youth ser­vices.

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