BY RAVI KAHLON
Parliamentary Secretary for Sport and Multiculturalism
Today, I am meeting with community leaders and organizations in Prince George to discuss local, emerging issues on racism and hate as part of a series of engagement meetings I am hosting around the province this summer.
I want to hear from people who are at the forefront of this critical issue and who are dedicated to combating discrimination and racism in our province. I want to understand: what is being done, what is working and what more we can do.
Far too often, hate turns into violence and crime. Police-reported hate crimes have increased in B.C. in recent years — from 164 reported incidents in 2015 to 255 incidents in 2017. This tells us that many people face racial discrimination as part of their daily lives.
Our friends, neighbours, colleagues and family are being targeted simply for their identity – their race, faith, sexual orientation, gender identity or other traits that make them who they are. Some of us have seen racist flyers distributed in our communities, witnessed verbal attacks or read hate speech online. Other times, racism is expressed in subtle ways that may not be as obvious, but that are just as damaging.
The severe consequences of marginalization and systemic racism are felt by the community and families of victims who went missing while travelling the highway from Prince Rupert to Prince George. Three billboards bring attention to the disappearance of women and girls who travelled this corridor, a disproportionate number of which were Indigenous.
This tragedy reflects the findings of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and brings to the forefront the desperate need for us to come together as a community to put an end to violence. Our government has invested a total of $8.1 million to provide more safe and accessible transportation options along the Highway 16 corridor, including transit options and community vehicles. Still, the horrific history of this route in northern B.C. is a reminder of where inequality and prejudice can ultimately lead.
More than ever, we must persist in our fight for a more welcoming, safe and just society for all British Columbians. The challenges are great. However, we find inspiration from people in our communities who are working to eliminate hate and encourage cross-cultural dialogue, trust and mutual respect for all people. I want to encourage every person in B.C. to consider how they can fight against racism and hate in their own lives.
The insight I gain from these community engagements will inform how we move forward towards building stronger, inclusive communities where everyone can participate fully in all aspects of society — a place where everyone has an equal chance to contribute and prosper.