After Winnipeg called worst place in Canada for racism, city leaders admit there is a problem

posted on January 24, 2015

By Sarah Boesveld, National Post | Link to Article

By Sarah Boesveld, National Post | Link to Article

After acknowledging the Treaty 1 Metis land on which he stood, the mayor of Winnipeg took a long, deep breath Thursday and said racism against Aboriginal people is a big problem in his city.

Flanked by a number of social, political and cultural leaders in the prairie city summoned to his office with only an hour’s notice, Mayor Brian Bowman stressed that racism is a problem nationwide, not just in Winnipeg.

But he did not dispute the claim made on the cover of Maclean’s magazine, published Thursday, that claimed “Canada has a bigger race problem than America. And it’s ugliest in Winnipeg.” In fact he went further, saying he hopes Winnipeg can “lead the nation” in eradicating racism.

“Racism and intolerance exists in every community, but we do have a problem in Winnipeg,” Mr. Bowman told the National Post by phone. “Instead of shrinking from the challenge, we need to rise up and we need to do better as a community.”

The article — the reason for his hastily called press conference — said national attention on the death of 15-year-old Aboriginal girl Tina Fontaine last summer has forced the city of 633,000 to face its “festering” racism. Indigenous writer Rosanna Deerchild, who is depicted on the cover, said she is routinely called a “stupid squaw” — a deeply derogatory term for Aboriginal women.

“We’re here together to face this head-on as one community,” Mr. Bowman told the media.

It was a significant step for the leader of Winnipeg and perhaps a critical one for the city’s first mayor of aboriginal descent, though the former privacy lawyer rarely mentioned his heritage during his campaign.

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