By TOM GODFREY
The City of Toronto, which is still grappling with race relations issues like carding and racial profiling, is a far cry from Winnipeg that has been voted “the most racist city in Canada”.
Winnipeg had a bomb dropped on it last January when Maclean’s magazine selected it as “the most racist city in Canada”, based on statistics, testimonials and activity on social media.
News of the contentious and unwanted recognition spread like a prairie wildfire on the Internet and city leaders are still trying to deal with all the negative fallout from around the world.
Even a city-sponsored anti-racism summit last weekend at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights was protested by First Nations leaders who rightly argued that they were not invited to participate in the event.
Mayor Brian Bowman and civic officials have been working overtime on a campaign to try and improve race relations and public relations for their city of almost 800,000 residents.
The bad publicity and notoriety have not gone away and have led to decreased visitors and a public shaming of Winnipeggers on social media.
Those of us living in “Toronto the Good” should take notice. We have our work cut out when it comes to dealing with racial issues, a top priority being the carding by police of Black and brown-skinned youth.
The controversial practice has been under fire because it targets young non-White men, who are questioned by police without charges and their personal data stored in police databases. They can then be refused loans, tuition or housing.
Our civic officials thankfully have been engaged in a lot of discussions and work behind-the-scene to get rid of carding and the biased treatment of diversified communities. There have been dozens of meetings in the community, before the Toronto Police Services Board and recently public consultations by the Ontario government to halt the practice.
We have chanted, marched, protested and blocked roads to grab attention but police carding exists, along with the continued police shootings of at-risk or mentally ill people.
The struggle to ban carding is under review by the Ontario government that hopes to have laws in place to address the issue by the end of the year.
Carding is a police tool that can be removed by the authorities; but being labelled a racist city hurts forever and the electronic footprint never goes away. Winnipeggers are working hard so something positive can come out of the accusation.
I have only visited Winnipeg once years ago to cover a two-day conference in a downtown hotel and wasn’t treated indifferently. Mind you, it was a quick visit and I was a paying guest.
The residents that I did meet were pleasant enough even though I have heard stories and seen footage of the unjust treatment of members of the large Aboriginal population living in that city.
The Native people still face a tough time there, much worse maybe than the way Blacks were treated in Toronto many years ago.
The Maclean’s magazine claimed that “Canada has a bigger race problem than America. And it’s ugliest in Winnipeg.
“The Manitoba capital is deeply divided along ethnic lines. Its native citizens suffer daily indignities and horrific violence,” the article states.
It said 90 per cent of children in Manitoba foster care are Aboriginal and last year Winnipeg had the highest proportion of racist tweets among big cities where hate crime is most prevalent.
Whatever the statistics, Winnipeg officials have a lot of work to do to overturn the stigma of being outed as racist in this day and age. We ourselves cannot become complacent since carding is proving to be a difficult thing to get rid of in Toronto.