Racist attacks rise in Canada

Publié le par hort

Black community needs full support

(May 31, 2007)

So how safe does Waterloo Region feel? The answer, it seems, depends on the colour of your skin. For most of the 500,000 people who call it home, the region is as safe and welcoming as a baby's blanket. But for too many members of the region's black communities, it is neither of those things.For too many blacks, this region is unsafe and becoming unsafer. It is unwelcoming. It is racist. And, to rub salt into wounds both physical and psychological, the majority of people, the majority with paler complexions that is, remains blithely indifferent to the deep and urgent concerns of a troubled minority.

This disturbing message -- and it was a plea for action as much as an indictment of wrongs -- came in a Kitchener courtroom this week from representatives of several local black organizations. However much that message might make some people squirm, the individuals delivering it had just cause to do so. The rest of the community should listen and do something.Face facts. In the space of a few years, black citizens of this region have twice seen black men attacked by whites in Kitchener's Victoria Park. Last July 15, Francis Pitia and Salah Dawoud were savagely beaten by a group of white men who hurled racial slurs along with their curled fists. Pitia, a 33-year-old refugee from Sudan whose right leg is paralyzed, was beaten with his own crutches. Six years ago, two young black men were attacked and stabbed in the park by a white mob. One of the victims, Howard Joel Munroe ,died of his injuries.

There are fairminded people who will point out that these two crimes -- as serious and intolerable as they are -- are not representative of the daily reality in the region. And while there's truth in this viewpoint, a different, but equally valid, perspective came in the community impact statement delivered by several black citizens at the trial of one of the men charged in connection with last summer's attack on Pitia and Dawoud. Listen to them."This crime has shattered the sense of security that we expected in Canada,'' said the statement signed by representatives of the African Canadian Association of Waterloo Region, the local chapter of the Congress of Black Women in Canada and the local South Sudan Canadian Association, as well as other groups."It said if you are black, stay away from the park. . . It has reminded us that as African Canadians we are still not safe. The silence of the wider community condones the hate crime.''

These sad words are a reproach, but even more an invitation for action. Yes, we should not lose sight of the groups that already work hard to welcome newcomers from all racial and ethnic backgrounds to the region. The Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre, YMCA Kitchener's cross-cultural services, the Cambridge Multicultural Centre have splendid records of service. But if the black communities don't feel welcome, we're not working hard enough; or what we're doing simply isn't working.

In the coming days and weeks, individuals, religious groups and community organizations have a role to play in reaching out to their black neighbours. But more is demanded. The political leaders of this region – the regional chair, the mayors, councillors, the members of the provincial legislature, the members of Parliament -- have to act as leaders. They have to speak out. They have to engage members of the black community. They have to show them this region cares.

This fall, Kitchener will hold a two-day forum to examine why people feel unsafe in the downtown. The forum should devote at least some of its attention to the concerns now being raised by members of the black community here. Waterloo Region is renowned as one of Canada's finest communities. Can't we make it one of Canada's finest communities for people of every colour?
 
 

Publié dans African diaspora

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