British Columbia

Let's talk about racism: CBC Vancouver's town hall helps facilitate the conversation

A CBC virtual town hall on racism takes place Wednesday night. Watch it live here, on Facebook, Gem, or listen on CBC Radio One.

Watch an archived version of the full virtual town hall below

Join CBC Vancouver's Lien Yeung and Angela Sterritt for a virtual townhall about systemic racism in the workplace, the media and in day-to-day interactions, and explore solutions that will make B.C. a more inclusive province. 1:30:03

A convergence of major political events this year — a global pandemic, widespread economic instability and repeated police shootings leading to the deaths of Black and Indigenous people across North America — has put the spotlight on racism and lent new urgency to the conversation.

Between March and May in Vancouver, there was an eight-fold increase in anti-Asian hate crimes attributed to the spread of COVID-19. The crimes have been overt — shoving, punching and vandalism. But there has also been a rise in hatred of a non-criminal nature: subtle words, actions or even dirty looks against people of Asian descent. 

Then within the last month, the spotlight swerved to anti-Black racism, ramped up by global protests after the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man from Minneapolis who pleaded for his life while breathing his last under the knee of a police officer.

You can tune in to Unmasking Racism at 7 p.m PT (10 p.m. ET) here at cbc.ca/bc, Facebook, CBC Gem and on CBC Radio One. (CBC)

His death at the hands of the police and those of others like Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi in Canada, who were both Indigenous, opened a conversation about systemic racism in policing systems.

RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki initially said she was "struggling" to define the term systemic racism, later clarifying she believes systemic racism exists in the police force she leads

Meanwhile, the media industry is also re-examining its own biases, including the CBC, as noted by CBC News editor in chief Brodie Fenlon.

But having racist actions be more visible in recent months doesn't make them a new phenomenon. 

Many Canadians still feel uncomfortable speaking about racism or don't even think it exists, says Kory Wilson, one of the speakers at CBC Vancouver's virtual town hall on Wednesday night, Unmasking Racism.

Wilson says everyone is at a different level when it comes to speaking about and naming racism, and this means some people have a lot more work to do in confronting their own prejudices and unconscious biases. 

Watch a clip from the June 17 virtual town hall: 

Recent events have spurred organizations to declare their support to fight racism in the workplace, but what will it take to achieve that? 4:00

During the town hall, hosts Angela Sterritt and Lien Yeung will be speaking to a diverse panel of experts about how systemic bias leads to everyday racial discrimination, inequality and discrimination in the workplace, and how the media plays a role in reinforcing and perpetuating harmful racial stereotypes and prejudices. 

Starting the conversation is but one step.

The speakers at the town hall include:

  • Manjot Bains, writer and former senior program adviser in the community support, multiculturalism and anti-racism initiatives program of the Department of Canadian Heritage.
  • Annette Henry, David Lam chair in multicultural education; professor, faculty of education and social justice institute, UBC.
  • Parker Johnson, SFU/Elevate Inclusion Strategies.
  • Jahmira Lovemore-White, co-founder of Black Mutual Aid B.C., organizer with Black Lives Matter. 
  • Bowinn Ma, NDP MLA for North Vancouver-Lonsdale.
  • Jeska Slater, Skookum Lab.
  • Adrienne Smith, trans activist and human rights lawyer.
  • Sgt. Valerie Spicer, Vancouver Police Department Diversity and Indigenous Relations Unit.
  • Kory Wilson, executive director of Indigenous initiatives and partnerships at BCIT.

You can watch the full, archived version of the June 17 CBC Vancouver town hall here:

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