OPINION: Our government is committed to tackling racism and discrimination


NDP MLA for Richmond Queensborough

AS an MLA, it is an honour to represent my constituency of Richmond-Queensborough in the Legislature, and to take part in debates about how to govern our province and make life better for people.

However, we also must acknowledge the harm that has come from our history as well. Richard McBride, Premier from 1903-1915, once stated that “British Columbia shall be a white man’s province”. Previous governments have passed legislation to prevent immigration from Asia and South Asia, discriminate against immigrants and Black slaves who fled the US, and dispossess Indigenous peoples of their lands.

We inherit this history, and it is our collective responsibility to make it right. But racism is not only part of our province’s history, it is a part of everyday life for the hundreds of thousands of British Columbians who are Indigenous, Black or people of colour.

Earlier this week, my colleague Niki Sharma, New Democrat MLA for Vancouver-Hastings, introduced a motion to recognize historic and current acts of systemic and institutional racism, and reaffirm our commitment to combat racism in all its forms. Members from both sides of the house gave moving statements, sharing their personal experiences of racism and discrimination.

This was a powerful reminder of how far we have come, that our government caucus now includes 16 MLAs who are Indigenous or people of colour, who can speak about our experiences and perspectives, and advocate for change, in this institution that once sought to oppress us. This is important progress.

But in 2021 we should be much further along this path. Recent incidents make this all too clear. In 2020 the Vancouver Police saw a 717-percent increase in reported anti-Asian hate crimes. I stress that these are the crimes that were reported, because the actual number is likely much higher. In the last few weeks alone, we’ve heard reports of anti-Semitic and anti-Indigenous vandalism and hateful posters being distributed in our province. These acts of hate are unacceptable. Even minor, seemingly innocuous comments and actions can progress to vitriolic hate and violence if not addressed.

It is clear that we have much work still to do. I take solace in the fact that our government is committed to tackling racism and discrimination. We’ve appointed B.C.’s first Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives, MLA Rachna Singh, and I’m heartened to see my colleague already moving things forward in this role.

We have reinstated the B.C. Human Rights Commission, to investigate the way that discrimination is rooted in our attitudes, our behaviours, our systems and our laws. We have launched Resilience BC, a program to support communities across the province with the resources to tackle racism at the local level. This past weekend, we launched a public education campaign, to get people talking about racism and examining their own internal biases. We are also undertaking a review and modernization of our Police Act, with a focus on addressing systemic racism.

To quote Black philosopher Frantz Fanon, “What matters is not to know the world, but to change it.” I am glad that we now have a government that is committed to changing our province for the better.