Does Kitchener-Waterloo have a racism problem?

Local MPPs pushed for Kitchener-Waterloo to be a part of a number of meetings across the province to address racism, some within the community think that the region doesn't have a problem.

On October 24th KW will be a part of several anti-racism meetings across the province

Kitchener-Waterloo will be part of a nine-series of community meetings led by the province's anti-racism directive. (Submitted by Remzi Cej)

On October 24th, Waterloo Region will be part of a string of community meetings across Ontario held by the province's anti-racism directive.

Over the coming months the provincial government hopes to engage with communities to address racism and help eliminate barriers for Indigenous and racialized communities.

The meetings will shed light on anti-Black and Indigenous racism, Islamophobia and other communities that have experienced racism.

Though the region was not originally included in these series of meetings, several local MPPs including NDP MPP Catherine Fife and Liberal MPP Daiene Vernile, pushed to get the region added to the list.

"There have been a number of high profile cases where culture and race have been used to not grant jobs and I heard that loud and clear from this community," said Fife.

But local politicians weren't the only ones that felt the region needed to shed light on the matter.

Brice Balmer, an assistant professor at Waterloo Lutheran Seminary and a member of Inter Faith Grand River,  says that while the region has seen changes in the past 35 years, it has created "a lot of fear and difficult issues of harassment and hate within our community."

"[The region] was number one in all of Canada about five years ago," Balmer told Craig Norris, host of The Morning Edition on CBC Radio 1 on Tuesday.

Where to draw the line

Balmer, along with several MPPs, agree that on one hand the region is a good community in terms of bringing in those who have struggled in other parts of the world. But on the other hand, there is still a significant amount of harassment going on.

He also says that many in the community don't think the region has a problem with racism. When CBC News asked members of minority communities in downtown Kitchener whether or not they have experienced a form of racism or think that the region has a problem, many said no.

"I have been here for six years and I didn't experience any racism at school or at work," one woman said.

Another said that though there are many forms of "isms", racism is not one that jumps out at her.

But when asked if they knew someone who has experienced racism, the majority responded yes.

Though there are initiatives to address the issue, including the work being done by police and university equity offices, Balmer believes that it's still not enough and more needs to be done.