Racism and hate have no place in B.C.

Asian Journal - - OPINION EDITORIALS -

Van­cou­ver: This year marks the 25th an­niver­sary of the B.C. Mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism Act. For me, this an­niver­sary is a chance to re­flect on how well we’re liv­ing up to the prin­ci­ples of equal­ity and re­spect en­shrined in the Act, and where we’re headed to­gether as a so­ci­ety. In 1993, when the Act was first cre­ated it seemed it was needed more than ever. Res­i­den­tial schools re­mained opened in Canada. A ban pre­vent­ing Sikhs from wear­ing tur­bans in the RCMP had only just been lifted. The pro­vin­cial cab­i­net in­cluded just one per­son of colour. We have made sig­nif­i­cant strides in the past 25 years, see­ing the arc of his­tory bend to­wards jus­tice. How­ever, like many of you, I feel and ob­serve an un­set­tling change in our so­ci­ety. This change is oc­cur­ring in daily life both off and on­line. Peo­ples’ sym­bols of faith are be­ing chal­lenged in Que­bec. A new Cana­dian po­lit­i­cal party is us­ing the is­sues of pub­lic safety and im­mi­gra­tion to stir up its base. Here in Bri­tish Columbia, we have seen peo­ple tar­geted on pub­lic tran­sit for who they are and how they dress. And sadly, racism has led to re­cent hor­rific hate crimes both south of the bor­der and here in our own coun­try. As the tra­di­tional ter­ri­tory of more than 200 First Na­tions, B.C. has al­ways been a highly di­verse re­gion. This ethno-cul­tural, racial and re­li­gious di­ver­sity grows each year with vi­brant ur­ban Indige­nous and Métis com­mu­ni­ties and long-term and new res­i­dents who now trace their ori­gins to more than 200 other coun­tries or re­gions.

In my role as Par­lia­men­tary Sec­re­tary for Sport and Mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, I par­tic­i­pated in re­cent con­sul­ta­tions our gov­ern­ment un­der­took to in­form the new B.C. Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion and the B.C. Poverty Re­duc­tion Strat­egy. The con­sul­ta­tions re­vealed per­sonal sto­ries from so many Bri­tish Columbians about the im­pact that racism and dis­crim­i­na­tion has on their ev­ery­day lives. We heard from peo­ple about the need to build trust and un­der­stand­ing be­tween our com­mu­ni­ties and to do more to en­sure that all Bri­tish Columbians are able to fully and freely par­tic­i­pate in the eco­nomic, so­cial, cul­tural and po­lit­i­cal life in the prov­ince.

This is a crit­i­cal mo­ment as a so­ci­ety. It’s up to us as in­di­vid­u­als – as hu­man be­ings – to build th­ese bridges. We must reach out to each to each other, learn each other’s sto­ries and his­to­ries and stand to­gether against hate. Tol­er­ance is not enough. In­stead, we must strive for eq­uity, ac­cep­tance and in­clu­sion.

Our gov­ern­ment takes this re­spon­si­bil­ity se­ri­ously. One of our first ac­tions was to be­gin the process to re-es­tab­lish the B.C. Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion.our com­mu­ni­ties will be stronger when all Bri­tish Columbians – no mat­ter where they live or what they can af­ford – have ac­cess to ef­fec­tive hu­man rights sup­port and ser­vices.

The Prov­ince aims to cre­ate a com­mis­sion that is ef­fi­cient, ef­fec­tive and equipped to pro­tect, pro­mote and de­fend hu­man rights in Bri­tish Columbia through proac­tive ed­u­ca­tion.

As part of our com­mit­ment to true, last­ing rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with First Na­tions in Bri­tish Columbia, our gov­ern­ment will be fully adopt­ing and im­ple­ment­ing the United Na­tions Dec­la­ra­tion on the Rights of Indige­nous Peo­ples (UNDRIP), and the Calls to Ac­tion of the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion. We’ve also in­vited Bri­tish Columbians from all back­grounds to par­tic­i­pate in a Mul­ti­cul­tural Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil, a leg­is­lated body cre­ated to pro­vide ad­vice to gov­ern­ment on ways we can pro­mote mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism and ad­dress racism.

Th­ese are a few of the first steps our gov­ern­ment has taken. But they won’t be the last. This Mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism Week, our pledge as gov­ern­ment is to meet hate and in­tol­er­ance head-on, for the sake of our beau­ti­fully di­verse so­ci­ety. I ask all Bri­tish Columbians to do the same.

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