Mayor's race summit not inclusive enough, Winnipeg professor says

A professor at the University of Winnipeg is disappointed by the list of speakers that's emerged for the city's racial-inclusion summit to be hosted in September.

CMHR promises a wide range of voices at summit, with active participation from attendees

Leah Gazan holds a M.Ed degree and teaches in the Faculty of Education at the University of Winnipeg.

A professor at the University of Winnipeg is disappointed by the list of speakers that's emerged for the city's racial-inclusion summit to be hosted in September.

Leah Gazan said she was invited to attend the summit, but told CBC News she has declined for now.  She questions why grassroots leaders like Michael Champagne and Althea Guiboche were not invited.  She is also concerned the $50 fee to attend could present a financial barrier to some people in the community.

"We need to get real about discussions here, we need to be able to be brave and have those difficult discussions about why things look the way they do in the City of Winnipeg," Gazan said Thursday.

Gazan is happy to see names like Diane Roussin – the former executive director of the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, and current project director for the Winnipeg Boldness Project – on the list of speakers.

However, she had also hoped to see more names of local community leaders like Michael Champagne, from Aboriginal Youth Opportunities; Bernadette Smith, the creator of Drag the Red; and Althea Guiboche, from the Got Bannock? project.

​"I know in my discussions with Bernadette Smith, certainly she's voiced her concerns about the lack of what she refers to as, 'grassroots people' that are in the front," Gazan said. 

A wide cross section

A committee of people from the mayor's office, the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation selected the speakers and moderators for the conference. Clint Curle, the head of stakeholder relations at the CMHR, said they were looking for a wide variety of voices, not only local people.
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman, left, is joined by Manitoba Education Minister James Allum and John Young, president and CEO of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, in announcing details about the One Summit on Tuesday. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

"There's lots of great people that could have come and we wanted to get that good cross section," Curle told CBC News. 

Curle said the conference will be interactive and so anyone that attends will have the chance to have their voice heard. 

"We shouldn't think of these people (conference speakers) as the only people that have a voice in this," he said. 

Gazan isn't of the opinion that the summit needed to include such a wide range of people for the first summit. 

"Before Winnipeg can open it up to the country in terms of finding national solutions, I think first we need to identify, as a city, where there have been gaps in systems that certainly have kept people excluded," she said. 

Financially restrictive

​"I commend the mayor for trying to address this issue, certainly acknowledging it was an issue in the first place when the [Maclean's] article came out. So I think the fact that it's being discussed in the city is really positive," Gazan said. 

However another concern she has is that the conference will exclude those that have financial restrictions, since there is a $50 general admission cost, with a $25 break for students. 

"It's important to ensure that all people are able to attend, and not limited by financial means," she said. 

Curle said financial assistance will be available for those wishing to attend the conference but can't afford it, specific details as being determined by the city. 

For more information on the summit's speakers visit its website.


  • A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Leah Gazan had been invited to speak at Winnipeg's national summit on racial inclusion in September. Gazan tells CBC News she was invited to attend the summit, but not to speak there.
    Aug 21, 2015 9:02 AM CT


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