Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace

RACISM IN REGINA

Posted by strattof on March 22, 2015

Regina has the dubious distinction of being the second most racist city in Canada, following closely behind Winnipeg, Canada’s most racist city.

  • Like Winnipeg, Regina is an extremely segregated city, with its primarily Indigenous North Central neighbourhood, “Canada’s worst neighbourhood,” according to a 2007 Maclean’s article, cut off from the city’s more affluent areas by two sets of railway tracks and by Albert and Elphinstone streets.
  • The median household income in North Central is $25,000, half the city average.
  • Like Winnipeg, Regina does not provide equal opportunity for Indigenous peoples. For example, in 2013-2014, the grade 12 graduation rate in the Regina Public School system was 76.9% for non-Indigenous students and only 46.5% for First Nations and Métis students.
  • Excessive police surveillance is the norm in North Central, while racial profiling is a city-wide practice, with police telling Indigenous people they stop “You fit the description.”
  • 90% of inmates at the Regina Provincial Correctional Centre are Indigenous. Indigenous peoples make up 15.6% of the population of the province and 9% of Regina’s population.
  • All of Regina city councilors are white. So too are all of Regina MLAs and MPs.

SYSTEMIC RACISM

Racism is not only hateful attitudes and racially discriminatory behaviour. It is also a system of advantage and disadvantage involving institutional policies and practices.

Anti-Indigenous racism is ubiquitous in Canada, evident in every social indicator, from child welfare services and education to life expectancy and justice.

CHILD WELFARE SERVICES

The federal government is responsible for funding child welfare services on First Nations.

  • Children on-reserve receive 22% less funding in social services than provincially funded urban area children.
  • One consequence of this systemic discrimination is that far too many First Nations children are placed in care. Shockingly, there are more First Nations children in care today than at the height of the residential school system.
  • In 2007 the Assembly of First Nations and the First Nations Caring Society of Canada took the Canadian government to court for its discrimination on the basis of race in the provision of child welfare services on-reserve.
  • The government tried to have the case dismissed on legal technicalities. Now it is contending that funding is not a service and that it is not fair to compare provincial to federal funding.
  • A ruling is expected next month.

EDUCATION

Schools on First Nations are funded by the federal government, while non-reserve schools receive their funding from the provinces.

  • A child who attends school on-reserve receives 33 – 50% less funding than a child in a provincial school.
  • One consequence of this built-in inequality is schools that are in poor condition and present health concerns, including overcrowding, extreme mould, high carbon dioxide levels, sewage fumes, frozen pipes, and unheated portables. According to former Prime Minister Paul Martin, “Most Canadians would not send their children to school on reserves.”

LIFE EXPECTANCY

  • Life expectancy for Indigenous peoples in Canada is five years less than for non-Indigenous Canadians.

MISSING AND MURDERED INDIGENOUS WOMEN

  • 1,181 Indigenous girls and women were murdered or went missing in Canada between 1980 and 2012.
  • Indigenous women are five times more likely to be murdered in Canada than non-Indigenous women.
  • The Harper government has dismissed calls for a national public inquiry.
  • What would the Harper government do if a disproportionate number of white women had been murdered?

CANADA IS A COLONIAL COUNTRY

According to Prime Minister Harper, Canada “has no history of colonialism.” How then does our Prime Minister account for:

  • The 1876 Indian Act which enshrines white privilege and Indigenous inferiority?
  • The forced displacement and containment of Indigenous peoples under Canada’s reserve and pass systems ‒ systems that made Indigenous lands available for European settlement?
  • The genocidal residential school system, for which Harper himself apologized?

Systemic racism against Indigenous peoples in Canada is rooted in colonialism. However, Canadian colonialism is not only an historical fact. It is also a present reality.

  • White privilege remains intact. In education, housing, employment, the justice system ‒ indeed, almost everywhere in Canadian society ‒ whiteness is an advantage and Indigenous identity a disadvantage.
  • Ignoring First Nations treaty rights, the Canadian state continues to grant state access to Indigenous lands and resources.
  • The child welfare system is part of the on-going genocide, disrupting Indigenous cultures and facilitating assimilation.

“Colonialism is the disconnection of Native people from the land, their history, their identity and their rights so that others can benefit. It is a basic form of injustice in the world, and has been condemned as a practice by the United Nations. Yet, we have never acknowledged that Canada was built as a colonial country and that it is, in fact, still colonial in many ways.”  ‒Taiaiake Alfred, “Canadian Colonialism”

INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF RACISM

Saturday March 21 is International Day for the Elimination of Racism. Established in 1966, it commemorates the Sharpeville Massacre, the 69 people who were killed on March 21 1960 while peacefully protesting against South Africa’s Apartheid pass laws, and calls on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate racism.

What can members of the dominant culture (that is white Canadians) do to help eliminate racism in Canada?

  • Check your privilege: Think about the ways your whiteness works for you in society. Race is about power which is unevenly distributed on the basis of race in Canada.
  • Acknowledge Canada is a racist country: Educate yourself about racism in Canada. Read, for example, Thomas King’s The Inconvenient Indian or James Daschuk’s Clearing the Plains.
  • Do anti-racist work: Call out racist statements and assumptions whenever you encounter them. Learn how to do so in a manner that provokes thought rather than anger.
  • Let Prime Minister Stephen Harper know you want a national public enquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women.
  • Make equal funding for child welfare services and educa-tion on First Nations an issue in the upcoming election.
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