Manitoba

Politicians at odds over Winnipeg's racism label

Politicians in Manitoba, Ottawa and Saskatchewan took shots at each other Sunday and Monday over the level of racism in Winnipeg.

Pallister, Oswald go head to head; Saskatoon mayor says his city 'eons ahead' of Winnipeg on race issues

Politicians in Manitoba, Ottawa and Saskatchewan took shots at each other Sunday and Monday over the level of racism in Winnipeg. 2:03

Politicians in Manitoba, Ottawa and Saskatchewan took shots at each other Sunday and Monday over the level of racism in Winnipeg, Saskatoons mayor going so far as to imply Winnipeg is stuck in the dark ages with respect to its approach to race issues in the city.

Progressive Conservative leader Brian Pallister said last week he didn't fully agree with a Maclean's magazine article that came out last week, claiming Winnipeg is the most racist city in Canada.

I think we're eons ahead of where they are in Winnipeg, because I think we're trying to address the situation.- Don Atchison, mayor of Saskatoon

"I can't accept the thesis of the article," he said. "I have to say that Manitoba has hosted people from around the world throughout it's history.

"We in Winnipeg and Manitoba understand what it's like to extend our arms to people from all ethnic backgrounds and racial backgrounds of course as well."

NDP leadership candidate Theresa Oswald said Sunday that Pallister is wrong if he thinks racism doesn't exist here.

"Absolutely it does. It's a provincial shame, for all of us," she said, adding a leader downplaying racism in Manitoba is very troubling.

In a province that's far more multi-racial and multi-cultural than most, the challenges are real and we will face those challenges better than anyone because we understand what's at stake."- Brian Pallister, Leader of Manitoba Progressive Conservatives

"If we can't acknowledge that racism exists in our city and in our province, we don't have a hope of coming together to fix it."

Oswald made the comments at Sunday's campaign announcement about making higher education more accessible.

Oswald 'politicizing' issue: PCs

But Pallister's camp fired back. They maintained he in fact did admit there was racism in Winnipeg, but that his comments were being misrepresented by Oswald for political reasons.

"We won’t be commenting on this further, despite Ms. Oswald’s attempts to politicize this issue," a PC spokesperson said. "Brian’s comments speak for themselves. He clearly articulated that there is a problem, but didn’t feel it was worse in Winnipeg than anywhere else."

Pallister added that Winnipeg is uniquely placed to understand and combat issues of racism familiar to other parts of Canada as well, due in part to the city’s large multicultural base.

"We have a greater understanding of tolerance than any homogeneous community outside of this area, where there's not a presence, a multi-ethnic, multi-racial presence. It's easy to say you're tolerant in the absence of others from different races, creeds and colours," said Pallister.

"In a province that's far more multi-racial and multi-cultural than most, the challenges are real and we will face those challenges better than anyone because we understand what's at stake."

‘How do we fix it?’: Liberal leader

Manitoba Liberal leader Rana Bokhari said she, too, is frustrated the issue of racism is being politicized.

"This shouldn't be a political issue,” Bokhari said. “If there's political steps we need to take to get to the root and figure it out ... [and] educate our people."

Bokhari, Manitoba’s first minority party leader, said she has experienced racism herself.

"I'm a female and I'm of colour. There are always situations that arise. I've had a lot of personal experiences,” she said.

But she said whether Winnipeg is the worst city in Canada for racism or not shouldn’t impeded efforts to resolve the locally grown issues of racism that be.

"Our goal needs to stop being, ‘were they right, were they wrong, what's the degree of racism in Manitoba?’ I think going forward the issue has to be how do we fix it," said Bokhari.

"Lets not minimize it in anyway. Do we need to think broader about the issue? Yes of, course. This is an opportunity to shape that generation."

Aboriginal affairs critic weighs in

Churchill MP Niki Ashton brought up the Maclean's cover story in Ottawa Monday.

Ashton, who was recently named Canada’s aboriginal affairs critic, used the issues brought up in the magazine to challenge Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Bernard Valcourt to review federal policies that she believes foster racism.
NDP leadership candidate Theresa Oswald said Sunday that Manitoba's Progressive Conservative leader Brian Pallister is wrong if he thinks racism doesn't exist here. (CBC)

“So the question is instead of being part of the problem, will the minister of aboriginal affairs commit to working with indigenous communities and with Canadians to put an end to the racism that indigenous people in Canada face,” said Ashton.

Valcourt responded saying the federal government supports Canada's aboriginal population.

"Our government believes aboriginal people should have the same rights, quality of life, as all other Canadians and take concrete action like economic development, good governance, training, treaty negotiations and reconciliation."

‘Eons ahead of Winnipeg': Saskatoon mayor

Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison also joined the conversation Monday.

"I think we're eons ahead of where they are in Winnipeg, because I think we're trying to address the situation,” said Atchison.

On Monday in Ottawa, Manitoba MP Niki Ashton asked Minister of Aboriginal Affairs Bernard Valcourt to review federal policies that she believes foster racism. (CBC)
Atchison said hate crimes in Saskatoon are lower than other Canadian cities and that there are good housing initiatives in place for the city’s aboriginal community.

One issue community activists and political leaders have tended to agree on since the article was published was that Winnipeg needs to endeavour to do better in its pursuit to solve issues of racism facing the city.

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