BodyLet us help the city help us fight racism
Open letter to Mayor Buckway and city councillors:
As you know, I was one of the individuals who appeared before city council in support of the Canadian Coalition of Municipalities Against Racism and Discrimination (CCMARD). There were many questions that arose during the March 5 meeting, in which I did not have the opportunity to respond and I would like to do so now.
You are no doubt aware that the decisions of the City of Whitehorse influence a much broader area than that enclosed by city limits. In terms of community, your influence is arguably felt Yukon-wide. Whitehorse, the capital city, has the largest population area, and has a major influence on rural communities and can serve as a model across Northern Canada.
I would have to add that your decisions, especially as regards this initiative, have international implications. You only have to look at how we may be perceived by foreign tourists or students. We are more than just a shopping centre and a place to view northern lights.
Your work in making the city, as an employer, fair and welcoming has been commendable and probably most citizens acknowledge that. You have employment policies that support a respectful workplace.
There was a question raised about the need for signing on to CCMARD when there are human rights and other laws to protect citizens. Such laws are in place to try to prevent and deal with discrimination when it occurs, but unfortunately we still see evidence of racism and discrimination in our community. People need a supportive environment to report incidents as they may be reluctant or afraid to come forward.
What the CCMARD initiative and its supporters are asking for is a statement that will clearly show off our values to the broader community and visitors alike. A simple statement like this costs nothing. Assessing and possibly committing to further measures are matters for later debate by city council. You can decide at any time what you feel has already been done, what could be done next, and yes, what is affordable.
Councillors have asked for specific actions that you might want to take if you signed on. A loud and very public condemnation by city council of the vandalism at the T.C. Richards Building and the defacing of Kirn Dhillon’s election sign would fit in with the initiative’s goals and be a simple no-cost action reflective of your commitment to CCMARD.
I’m not suggesting that you do it for past incidents because individually you probably have. You might take these examples as an opportunity to develop with citizens and authorities appropriate actions in dealing with racist graffiti or other discriminatory events in the community.
Please don’t be afraid that the city will be alone either in leadership or labour. Look at the list of 24 organizations and two First Nation governments that have demonstrated their willingness to participate, lead and offer their knowledge and connections to those impacted by racism and discrimination. I am personally willing to volunteer my time and knowledge.
I’m sure that you must have been in touch with some of the 52 communities that have signed on to the initiative. And I’m sure that they’ve given you feedback about what’s involved. May I also respectfully suggest that you also ask them why they signed on. I think the answers you find may be more important than the operational details.
I urge you to sign on to CCMARD and hope that we can truly celebrate on March 21, the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination!
Lillian Nakamura Maguire