Institutional racism in Winnipeg will take longer than 1 year to fix, professor says

One year ago this week, a magazine ran a cover story calling Winnipeg the most racist city in Canada. So, what's changed?

What's been done to solve systemic racism in year since Winnipeg called most racist city in Canada?

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman addresses the media on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2015, about racism in Winnipeg, backed by prominent community leaders and activists. The event came on the heels of a Maclean's magazine article that labelled Winnipeg the most racist city in Canada.

There's been a lot of talk and signs of encouragement, but not much institutional change to combat issues of racism in Winnipeg over the last year, a professor of indigenous studies says.

On Jan. 22, 2015, Maclean's magazine published a story that labelled Winnipeg the most racist city in Canada. The story elicited a mix of criticism and praise from people across the country.

Almost a year on, what's changed?

"I think there's been a public awareness to the larger issue that's at hand," said Niigaan Sinclair, a professor and
head of the native studies department at the University of Manitoba, on Monday.
Niigaan Sinclair is a University of Manitoba professor who teaches indigenous literature, culture, history and politics.

"There hasn't been a lot of institutional change, but there's been a lot of committees formed, there's been a lot of open dialogues, mayoral forums. But for the most part, the institutional change will take a much longer time."

On the heels of the publication, Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman made an emotional plea at city hall. Flanked by a group of leaders in the indigenous community, Bowman vowed to improve race relations and work to repair intergenerational divisions that have made life harder for members of Winnipeg's aboriginal population.

Bowman formed an indigenous advisory committee and hosted a national anti-racism summit in the months after the story was published.

While the province and city have made efforts to better understand the root issues of racism in the city, Sinclair said the most encouraging promise of change came from the federal level.

"I see actually large-scale, long-term change, but mostly from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 recommendations," Sinclair said. 

"I've seen much more change in that direction than any major [or] magazine declaring racism is alive and well."

While there's still a lot of work to do at the provincial and municipal levels, Sinclair said he's optimistic things are headed in the right direction.

"There's lots of hope, but I think it's not due to the Maclean's article," he said. "I thinks that's one part of a larger picture."