Calgary begins public hearing to set up anti-racism action committee

Calgarians have a chance to share their experiences with systemic racism during a council committee public hearing that starts Tuesday.

More than 130 people are expected to speak to city council committee

Iman Bukhari with the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation was behind a successful petition to have the city establish an anti-racism task force. (Submitted by Iman Bukhari)

Read the latest on this story: Calgary wants to have that awkward conversation about systemic racism

Calgarians have the chance Tuesday and Wednesday to speak to city council members about their experiences with systemic racism, when a council committee holds a two-day public hearing.

More than 72,000 people signed an online petition calling for the session in the wake of recent protest marches in Calgary in support of Black Lives Matter.

City council has already agreed to set up an anti-racism committee. Terms of reference will be discussed today and then more than 130 people are expected to speak to city council members about racism.

Iman Bukhari is the founder of the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation. She says people have plenty to say, and she expects presenters will ask city council for changes to help.

"They're going to talk about their issues and they're going to talk about things like policing. We need to question their role, their budget, their accountability," Bukhari said. 

"We need to talk about affordable housing, we need to talk about transit, city development, community services, how about the wealth inequity of northeast versus southwest and addressing workplace racism and what role does the government have in place of that?"

Tuesday, council members will discuss the terms of reference for that committee, but people can add to that by giving their ideas during this public hearing.

Councillor Gian-Carlo Carra, who is chairing the meeting, says it's critical politicians and all Calgarians hear people's experiences of living with racism.

"It's going to be a necessary journey for me and a lot of my colleagues to take as we set up to pivot from listening and learning to actually acting," Carra said.

But council's rules and real life don't always mix, Bukhari says, pointing out that giving people only five minutes to talk about systemic racism is barely scratching the surface.

"The city has honestly failed in this consultation, so I really hope going forward that they do a much better job at this," said Bukhari.

With more than 130 people registered to speak, this hearing is expected to last two days.

With files from Scott Dippel