On September 17th and 18th, 2015, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman will be hosting the “Mayors National Summit on Racial Inclusion”. This is a good idea. Earlier this year, Mcleans magazine wrote an article “Welcome to Winnipeg, where Canada’s racism problem is at its worst”. This article was written based on the experience that Indigenous people in this city face. The mayors racial inclusion summit is being done to repair the cities image. Rightfully so.
I have had the opportunity to engage with many people since the announcement of the mayors summit, and the overall feeling of the community is that the summit is merely political lip service. There is questions as to why there is a $50 fee, why it is being held at the Canadian museum for human rights- where the conversation of the Indigenous genocide is not taken seriously enough; why there was no consultation with people in the community as to what the summit is, what its going to look like, and who the people speaking at the event are.
This is not a knock on anyone, but the racial inclusion summit could have had more local people at the summit talk about what the urban indigenous experience is like in Winnipeg. Bringing people from outside of the city doesn’t give the participants an authentic view of what the realities are. We live in a city that is segregated, and very much divided by streets, bridges, and rivers. Just how inclusive is a racial inclusion summit going to be, if you are not including the people that face a majority of the racism in this city?
As a community, we are planning a local inclusion summit. This local racial inclusion summit will be for people who are not registered for the mayors sold-out summit, and will coincide with the first day of the mayors summit on Thursday, September 17th. It will be independent from the national summit. The plan is to bring people from as many diverse nationalities together, and to have a discussion with tangible goals. We would like to host an event that truly includes people from every background and hopefully have people walk away with a better understanding of the neighbours that we share this city with. We are hoping to have speakers that are representative of this cities diverse nationalities that live here.
We are going to have a conversation in the middle of the event that will give participants a chance to answer questions like, what can we do to create a better city for Winnipeg? The whole idea of the event is really to give local people a voice, and to create a better understanding on why things are the way that they are, for Indigenous people in this country. This is also an opportunity to develop a relationship with non-Indigenous people in this city, so that they can leave the event with ideas on how to be good neighbours. Racial inclusion is not always about an opportunity, but rather a chance to break down fears that people have, and give strangers a chance to say “hello” to each other on the street.
We would like to live in a city that understands each other, and we want this event to be as respectful as possible. We want people to believe that they can live in a better city. The challenges that this city faces, in terms of race relations, is something that we must tackle together as a community. It also means giving Indigenous people, a chance to lead those conversations. We have been able to effectively engage with as many non-Indigenous people as possible, and we believe that it is really the start of concrete change.
The event will take place on Thursday, September 17, 2015 at the The Forks at 6 pm. It will be open to anyone and everyone who is sincere about talking about racism in this city, and is open to hearing about ways to combat it. All that we ask is people show up with an open mind to change.