Winnipeg Mayor’s Plan Against Racism Faces Challenges

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Thousands of people came out in Winnipeg last night for a vigil for murdered and missing - Photo James Harper / Twitter
Thousands of people came out in Winnipeg last night for a vigil for murdered and missing - Photo James Harper / Twitter
Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC).
Grand Chief Derek Nepinak of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC).

Systemic barriers and the reluctance to investigate – AMC Grand Chief

WINNIPEG – On February 11, 2016, a 14 year old boy from Garden Hill First Nation was racially profiled and targeted through racial slurs by a Winnipeg community centre employee, and confirms racism remains rampant in Winnipeg. Grand Chief Nepinak stated “racial epithets targeted at First Nation children are inexcusable and unacceptable. They are emotionally damaging and should be taken seriously especially because it involves a minor.”

Other recent major incidences of racism in Winnipeg include: a Veteran (Elder) being profiled and harassed to leave a mall; discrimination by Winnipeg taxi drivers; and a Winnipeg bus driver who assaulted a mother and her child.

“Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman’s plan to repudiate the characterization of Winnipeg as Racism is ugliest in Winnipeg has a lot of work ahead of him. It seems that the employees of the City’s Community Centres need a fast and earnest lesson on the effects of racism and discrimination” said Grand Chief Nepinak, adding “Its going to be on the ground in the streets of the City where positive changes to the racism faced daily by Indigenous peoples is going to have to be measured.”

The family of the 14 year old victim of the racial slur is looking at all legal options to address the incident, including an investigation of the incident under the Criminal Code and Human Rights Code. The family will also be seeking a protection order or peace bond from the Courts.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Grand Chief Sheila North Wilson said, “The citizens of our MKO First Nations use Winnipeg’s Community Centres on a daily basis and the law requires that the Centres must provide an environment that is safe and free from discrimination and harassment. MKO is calling on Mayor Bowman and the Indigenous Advisory Circle and the General Council of Winnipeg Community Centres to immediately take action to reinforce the City’s compliance with anti‐discrimination laws and with the City’s Community Centre Respectful Environment Policy.”

“MKO is also calling on the Indigenous Advisory Circle to collaborate with the GCWCC and Community Centres to immediately launch regular Indigenous Inclusion programs for Community Centre staff and for everyone who uses the Community Centres that are compliant with standards of cultural competency and cultural safety. MKO is also asking Mayor Bowman to include a representative from an MKO First Nation on the Indigenous Advisory Circle to help contribute a northern perspective to the work of the Council,” added MKO Grand Chief North Wilson.

Grand Chief Nepinak continued, “I put the question of responding to racism within the legal construct of the Canadian Justice system. Investigative measures to address systemic racism and discrimination in the Criminal Code exist but aren’t being utilized.” noted Grand Chief, and asked: “Right now there is not one decision from the human rights tribunals or in the enforcement of the Criminal Code that stands out and that would offer deterrence, or at least a denouncement of such behaviours.”

Grand Chief Nepinak added: “The systemic barriers and the reluctance to investigate, lay charges and to prosecute these offences exist at the policing, prosecutions, the judiciary and justice ministers’ levels. Apart from implementing the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations, we must not forget the recommendations of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry that deal with these issues but remain to be fully implemented.”

“The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs has zero tolerance on racism and discrimination against First Nations citizens on and off reserve. We will be seeking immediate police investigation on all alleged racism related offences and its prosecution. In the next few days, we will be setting up a hotline for racial and discriminating complaints that will be used to help log incidents of racism in Winnipeg and works towards equality amongst all people,” concluded Grand Chief Nepinak.

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