Racism is definitely an issue in Winnipeg, Mayor Sam Katz said.
"It's there, it's there, end of story,” said Katz. “First what we have to do is acknowledge it and then we have to enlighten and educate.”
He made the statement in light of derogatory Facebook comments that surfaced last week made by mayoral candidate Gord Steeves' wife Lorrie four years ago.
Katz said he's received numerous calls and emails with people making racist comments.
He said it's not just the mayor's role to foster tolerance and understanding. Everyone has to make an effort, he said.
"We all have to be part of the solution," said Katz. "Don't be so naive as to ever believe there is no discrimination, there is no racism, there is no prejudice. It exists, I mean I've lived through it myself."
But Katz also said he doesn’t believe racism is any worse in Winnipeg than in other cities.
Mayoral hopefuls pledge inclusion
Mayoral hopeful Brian Bowman called Tuesday, when Steeves spoke about his wife’s comments, a sad day in the campaign.
“The tone wasn’t one of greater respect for those that may have been offended. And I think a lot of Winnipeggers were,” he said.
He promised to reach out to all Winnipeggers in an effort to bridge existing divides if elected.
Coun. Paula Havixbeck is also running in the race. She said Lorrie Steeves’ comments were completely inappropriate, and a major shift in the conversation is needed.
“This is about addictions in my mind. This is not about a certain race, gender [or] social class,” said Havixbeck. “This is about people who are struggling.”
Havixbeck said as mayor, she would lead the charge in helping people dealing with mental health issues and addictions.
Katz said anyone who takes over for him will have to “embrace every culture, every ethnic background.”
He added, “I certainly have tried to do that. You want to work with everyone, and you want to make sure that everyone has that opportunity to live the dream and have the life that they are entitled to.”