Acclaimed Canadian author Joseph Boyden and U.S. civil rights leader Rev. Gerald Durley will take part in a national anti-racism summit to be held next month in Winnipeg, which was called Canada's most racist city by Maclean's magazine earlier this year.
Mayor Brian Bowman and the Canadian Museum for Human Rights have announced the event titled One: The Mayor's National Summit on Racial Inclusion, will be held Sept. 17-18 at the human rights museum.
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The summit will "begin the process of building an extensive network of leaders and thinkers dedicated to generating 'ideas of inclusion' that can ultimately be embraced by individuals and organizations across the country," the city said in a news release Tuesday.
Bowman pledged to host an anti-racism summit after Maclean's published a cover story in January that highlighted divisions between the city's aboriginal and non-aboriginal citizens.
Speaking to reporters at Tuesday's announcement, Bowman said the article "rightly or wrongly gave Winnipeg the title of most racist city in Canada."
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The mayor said while a single summit will not end racism, he hopes the event will be a start.
"We need to engage Canadians of every background, of every generation, in actively seeking solutions," Bowman said.
"The One Summit is an attempt to begin that process. The One Summit is very much an important stepping stone to encourage change."
At the same time, Bowman acknowledged that changing some people's attitudes will be tough — a point that is visible on the summit's website, 1Winnipeg.ca.
The website collects the public's ideas about ways to end racism. While many of the comments are constructive, some are not.
For example, one commentor recommended separating the races into different nations — including "white countries for white people" — as a way of ending racial conflict.
"Not everyone shares the same views on a very difficult subject, and so some of the intolerance that really led to that Maclean's article, and racism in general, was expressed on the website," Bowman said.
Panel discussion, workshops on agenda
The One Summit will include a panel discussion with Boyden, Durley and James Wilson, Manitoba's treaty relations commissioner, as well as workshops in English and French on recognizing racism and promoting healthy race relations.
Boyden, who is known nationally for his award-winning novels The Orenda and Three Day Road, created the story behind Going Home Star, a Royal Winnipeg Ballet production on the impacts of residential schools. Overall, his works have raised public awareness of aboriginal culture and racism.
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Durley is a civil rights leader based in Atlanta, Georgia, and is a personal friend of Martin Luther King Jr.
The panel discussion, which will be held Sept. 17, will be free of charge to the public but pre-registration is required. The workshops on Sept. 18 will cost $50 to register ($25 for students). People can register online at 1Winnipeg.ca.
'Building healthy relationships'
Bowman said he wants to bring together people from across Canada and across generations to work on ways to eliminate racism "by identifying initiatives that are already working and by developing new and shareable ideas that are going to encourage, inspire and motivate acceptance, mutual understanding and inclusion from coast to coast to coast."
Wilson said the summit must produce solutions that can be tracked and measured.
"Part of the real hope that I have coming out of this is that we'll start creating some real measurable outcomes that we, as a city and as a province, can demonstrate to the rest of the country as far as best practices about building healthy relationships," he told CBC News.
"It's real easy to put window dressing on problems and say, 'You know what? We painted a big medicine wheel or we made dream catchers, so we're doing our job to fix racism.' To me, that stuff doesn't cut it."
Wilson said the University of Manitoba's strategic plan for indigenous academic achievement is a good example of measurable outcomes because it tracks recruitment and retention numbers.
The One summit has the support of the Manitoba government and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.
At Tuesday's announcement, Education Minister James Allum said the government plans to introduce legislation to enshrine an indigenous education framework in the province.