Real Action Needed on Systemic Racism

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THUNDER BAY – LETTERS – In recent months I have watched as city stakeholders circle the wagon for damage control after the two reports identifying systemic racism within the police force revealed very real and dangerous living conditions for Indigenous peoples here in Thunder Bay. I have also watched city officials using the televised council meetings and local media to counter these reports by promoting and highlighting accomplishments within their organizations in an effort to downplay existing systematic racism. Talking your accomplishments instead of walking towards change is simply a defense of your actions, not a sincere acknowledgement or a willingness to make change within the existing system. These tactics are to maintain control in an effort to gain back reputation on a national stage and to help curb the negative economic impact that may occur in Thunder Bay.

I am concerned that instead of opening the door to honest dialogue and solutions with a competent strategy for change, these counterclaims have led to non-Indigenous citizens publicly shouting out their racist attitudes in public forums as was recently witnessed in a community town hall. Suggesting Indigenous people and their building projects belong on reserves tells a much more accurate story of attitudes this city holds towards the reconciliation process with the Indigenous community. Our reality check is this man’s audience clapped and cheered at his suggestion that these buildings and people belonged on their Reservation.

Another reality is a Mayor that sees his legacy project as a $40 million dollar indoor sports facility believing that sports will heal the divide that exists in Thunder Bay. Hoping to integrate youth from Indigenous communities with sports, programming and concerts bypass the hard conversation and reconciliation process that needs to be initiated with their parents, and grandparents who suffered unspeakable trauma in residential schools and the sixties scoop.

I have every confidence that this sports facility will be hijacked by parents with the financial means to ensure their children benefit the most, with limited access for the less fortunate. Bob Cook wrote in Forbes magazine in March 2017 that “parents of means willing to spend more money, earlier, on their children’s athletic development, that raises the price for everyone else who wants to participate, and creates a more professionalized youth sports environment where being developed and discovered early becomes more critical.”

Children and youth living in poverty will not be able to compete within this competitive and expensive sports structure and although an indoor turf facility is needed in the city, the $40 million dollar price tag for this facility is reckless and the Mayor’s legacy project definitely takes the focus and conversation away from the poor state of Indigenous relations and reconciliation efforts within the city.

Lori Paras

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