OPINION: B.C. needs to do more to address racism in our society

BY TERESA WAT

BC Liberal MLA for Richmond-North Centre

MANY have heard about the dramatic increase in hate crimes during the pandemic and worse, some have felt the impacts firsthand. Anti-Asian hate crimes have risen more than 700 per cent in Vancouver and 350 per cent in Burnaby, and there is no doubt that the rising sentiments of hate and intolerance are impacting other communities. I have felt deeply impacted by this; sometimes I hesitate to go out in public, despite living in a community that has been my home for decades.

It is also apparent the harm to our communities is not isolated to one group of people. Unfortunately, many British Columbians are feeling less safe and less welcome in their neighbourhoods.

The safety and sense of belonging of British Columbians is non-political, and I recognize that all members of the Legislature have an interest in ending racism in this province. I have asked for May 29 to be proclaimed “Anti-Racism Education Day,” a day where our schools and communities can have open discussions about racism, how to identify it, and what we can do to stop it. This proclamation cannot go forward without the support and approval of B.C.’s Attorney General. However, I am increasingly dejected by his silence.

We are asking the government to help British Columbians take positive action, and to create more space for the important and necessary discussions we need to undertake. We have collected nearly 5,000 signatures from individuals and from representatives of 170 community organizations, asking government to support this proclamation.

I am hoping Anti-Racism Education Day can serve as the first of many steps to eliminating racism in B.C. and improving the lives of those victimized by hate and intolerance. 

What is clear is that we need to work together — as a Legislature, as a community, and as a province — to educate one another about the dangers of bigotry and hate. We must remain vigilant, stay united, and be unafraid to address the roots of intolerance in our society. 

Our multicultural history and heritage are the very foundation upon which British Columbia was built. Ending racism is no easy task, but together we can create a more just province for generations to come.

Link to petition to support the proclamation of May 29 as an annual Anti-Racism Education Day: https://www.change.org/p/support-the-proclamation-of-may-29-as-an-annual-anti-racism-education-day

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