Mourners gather to place flowers at a makeshift memorial for George Floyd at the corner of Chicago Avenue and East 38th Street, Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Minneapolis. Protests continued following the death of Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Mourners gather to place flowers at a makeshift memorial for George Floyd at the corner of Chicago Avenue and East 38th Street, Sunday, May 31, 2020, in Minneapolis. Protests continued following the death of Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

EDITORIAL: It’s time for Canada to admit to its own racism

Make no mistake, racism exists in Canada.

The news coming out of the United States over the past week, as people loudly protest the death of a black man—George Floyd—at the hand of police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is life-changing.

Watching the unrest as it quickly spread across nearly every state and into some Canadian provinces was uncomfortable. We have to question ourselves why?

Make no mistake, racism exists in Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said on more than one occasion that it’s time Canadians acknowledge racism and unconscious bias against black people exist in this country.

“Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,” Trudeau said Friday, May 29, 2020. He urged Canadians to stand together against discrimination and anti-black racism and to “understand we have work to do as well in Canada.”

We are not exempt from racism in Port Alberni. We have a large Indigenous population in the Alberni Valley, and its citizens face racism every day. Although two nations have land interests and history immediately in the region, there are at least seven that come together in Nuu-chah-nulth territory—including the Alberni Valley—to do business, share culture, build lives.

The level of white rage from people reacting to the protests in the United States is disproportionate compared to the apathy that is evident toward Indigenous issues here and on the west coast.

Canadians’ reaction to the civil unrest south of our border is disproportionate even to protests between the Wet’suwet’en Nation, Coastal Gaslink and the federal and provincial governments. People now are affronted at the racial divide demonstrated in just about every American state, but where were those same people when the Wet’suwet’en Nation needed their support?

A well-respected First Nations advocate who died earlier this year once said Indigenous people have to choose whether to speak out or speak up—and if they do, what their words will cost them and whether speaking up is worth the price to be paid.

Yet non-Indigenous people don’t have to think about what they say.

Racism doesn’t have to be blatant: it can be poor choices of words when discussing “taxable” businesses, or appropriating a song that is culturally significant to a First Nation, or making assumptions about a person because of their skin colour.

The best thing we can do is check our privilege at the door (yes, we acknowledge that privilege here at the Alberni Valley News), endeavour to learn more about and understand our neighbours, and to be respectful in our words and actions.

We hear you. We see you. We stand with you.

— Alberni Valley News

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District and City of Port Alberni have chosen the Voyent Alert! app for emergency notifications. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Alberni, ACRD unveil new emergency alert system

Program is a response to criticism of botched communication after 2018 tsunami warning

Students from the junior leadership class at ADSS help homelessness and addictions advocate Mark Braunagel load backpacks and bags full of supplies into his truck on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Students collected supplies to be handed out to some of Port Alberni’s most vulnerable people. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Alberni high school students fill backpacks to help city’s homeless

Junior leadership students embraced service project, said teacher Mike Roberts

(NEWS FILE PHOTO)
ACRD, City of Port Alberni receive $4 million for COVID-19

Municipalities have until end of 2021 to allocate funding

The site of the former Arrowview Hotel, on Second Avenue and Athol Street, as of Jan. 14, 2020. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Port Alberni pressures Arrowview Hotel owner for final cleanup

Demolition finished in June 2020 but site still full of construction material

West Coast General Hospital in Port Alberni received some good news about an expansion to its emergency department on Jan. 15, 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
B.C. health ministry commits $6.25M to hospital expansion in Port Alberni

Plans for larger emergency department have been on hold since 2015

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

sdf
2nd in-school violence incident in Mission, B.C, ends in arrest

RCMP notified of local Instagram page with videos (now deleted) showing student assaults, bullying

BC Emergency Health Services has deployed the Major Incident Response Team (MIRRT) as COVID-19 positive cases rise in the Williams Lake region. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
B.C.’s rapid response paramedics deployed to Williams Lake as COVID-19 cases climb

BC Emergency Health Services has sent a Major Incident Rapid Response Team to the lakecity

The new Malahat Skywalk is expected to be completed by this summer. (Submitted graphic)
Malahat Skywalk expected to be complete by this summer

$15-million project will see 650-metre elevated wooden pathway constructed

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

U.S. military units march in front of the Capitol, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 in Washington, as they rehearse for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, which will be held at the Capitol on Wednesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden aims for unifying speech at daunting moment for U.S.

President Donald Trump won’t be there to hear it

Williams Lake physician Dr. Ivan Scrooby and medical graduate student Vionarica Gusti hold up the COSMIC Bubble Helmet. Both are part of the non-profit organization COSMIC Medical which has come together to develop devices for treating patients with COVID-19. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Group of B.C. doctors, engineers developing ‘bubble helmet’ for COVID-19 patients

The helmet could support several patients at once, says the group

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

Most Read