Winnipeg to launch website seeking ideas on eliminating racism

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman says he wants ideas on how to eliminate racism in the city, and he's setting up a website where people can submit their thoughts.

CBC's Information Radio hears people's stories of change in wake of Maclean's magazine cover

Winnipeg to launch website seeking ideas on eliminating racism

7 years ago
Duration 1:46
Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman says he wants ideas on how to eliminate racism in the city, and he's setting up a website where people can submit their thoughts.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman says he wants ideas on how to eliminate racism in the city, and he's setting up a website where people can submit their thoughts.

Bowman says, which will be launched in the near future, will offer a way to open up a public conversation about racism and look at ways of dealing with the issue.

"Regardless if you're indigenous or not, this affects all of us as a community," he told Marcy Markusa of CBC's Information Radio Tuesday from Connie's Corner Cafe in Winnipeg's North End.

"So what I want is I want people to reach out to us through the website and let us know how they think we can improve things collaboratively."

Bowman and Point Douglas NDP MLA Kevin Chief, who is also Manitoba's minister of jobs and economy, were responding to an article by Maclean's magazine last week claiming that Canada's race issues were at their worst in Winnipeg.

Chief applauds the initiative, saying it's a concrete way for people to share ideas about ending racism.

"It is coming from a very personal, sincere place which leads to, you know, common goals and people trying to build understanding from many different backgrounds, which then leads to often an ability to work together and co-operate and move forward," he said.

At the same time, Chief said since the Maclean's story came out on Thursday, people have been having their own discussions about racism in schools and in homes.

"They're happening in classrooms all throughout Winnipeg right now and all throughout Manitoba, probably the country. Teachers are taking the time to look at this. They're happening at the kitchen table. That is what's so remarkable about Winnipeg's response to the Maclean's article," he said.

Bowman said he wants people to reach out to the city through the website and work together in dealing with a complex and historical issue.

"I'll be listening and I'll be receptive and we'll be working with a lot of the leaders that were at city hall, Minister Chief and others," he said.

The mayor added, "Premier [Greg] Selinger called me the day after to see how he could help and how the provincial government could help."

Is the tide starting to shift?

Meanwhile, many Winnipeggers say they have noticed a tide shift in the discourse on racism in the days after the Maclean's magazine article was published.

Besides the change in discourse, some are also beginning to notice changes in casual interactions with strangers on the street.

Cree poet and storyteller Duncan ​Mercredi noticed something different — something that surprised him — after the Maclean's article hit stands.

"Having people (whiter shade of pale) acknowledge me with a smile or hello, a good morning, especially these last couple of days, is starting to get kind of freaky," Mercredi wrote in a Facebook post days after the story came out.

"The Manitoba capital is deeply divided along ethnic lines. Its Native citizens suffer daily indignities and horrific violence," this Maclean's magazine article from last week states in part. (CBC)
"It just happened again on my walk to the corner store, a good morning from a stranger. I looked behind me to see if it was me he was talking to and by hayzus, he was. I grunted back at him. It's going to take awhile getting used to this new world order."

Mercredi said he’s experienced people avoiding him on the streets or even firing off racial slurs in his direction. Now, Mercredi said with the topic of racism on people’s minds, their hearts seem to have opened up.

Chantal Kuegle, who is of both aboriginal and European ancestry, said she believes perceptions and the conversation on racism are starting to change.

"I think overall … the conversation is more accepted as something that needs to be done and action needs to be taken," said Kuegle. 

"I do notice if I wear aboriginal beaded earrings and have a little bit more visual aspects of my race portrayed, then I just get a little bit not as polite treated by employees or just on the street.

"Or when I'm with my grandpa who is clearly very aboriginal, it's a little different than being out with my dad, who's German."


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