Regional government building practical guidelines to combat systemic racism

Forum hears from Indigenous communities, non-Indigenous managers and workers

Regional government building practical guidelines to combat systemic racism

An Inuit regional government in Newfoundland and Labrador is looking to build guidelines to combat systemic racism in public systems.

The Nunatsiavut government led a two-day forum last week in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in the province to hear from different stakeholders about their experiences with racism.

Participants included members of Indigenous communities, non-Indigenous managers and workers from various public systems, such as health care, education and justice. They also suggested ways to eradicate it from these systems, reported CBC.

Subtle forms of racism can become ingrained in a system, said Hilary Fry, the Indigenous health relations manager with the Nunatsiavut government, according to the report.

"Our policies that shape practices are putting Inuit and other Indigenous folks at a disadvantage and I think the historical context need[s] to be at the forefront," Fry said.

The Nunatsiavut government will use the things discussed in the forum to build guidelines to combat racism within different public systems, according to the CBC report.

Being aware of Indigenous history – including the residential school system and forced relocations – can guide both policy and care providers, said Fry.

"We're giving people their voices," Fry said. "I'm hoping in the future as we compile all these findings that I'll be able to come up with some sort of practice guideline that can be utilized by our non-Indigenous systems."

Nearly six in 10 (58.6%) of Indigenous workers have experienced discrimination in their current workplace, according to a previous report.

Step up to end racism

Gerald Asivak, the Nunatsiavut minister of health and social development, noted that he often hears complaints about racism in health care. And while these incidents are sometimes covert, other times they are more direct.

"It's a sad reality that it's still happening in 2024," Asivak said in the CBC report.

"We have to continue lobbying, being heard, [actively] listening and calling out people, not only people, but systems, agencies, organizations. We have the right to feel safe. We need to end racism and this will help with that."

Even Asivak has his own experience with racism.

"I've experienced it," he said in the CBC report. "Living here and moving away, or even because of the colour of my skin, there might be perceptions or stereotypes because I am a Labrador Inuit."

He’s hoping that everyone will step up to end racism in day-to-day life.

"Even if your friend is exhibiting that poor behaviour, call them on it. Sometimes it's very difficult. But that's one way to slowly eliminate it because that's where it starts — with you. And taking your own power and letting it be heard."

Two in five Indigenous employees in Canada report having experienced discrimination at work, according to data from the Diversity Institute.

Systemic racism is a persistent problem in Canada, said the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC).

“No organization and no government is immune,” it said. 

“It is up to all of us to uncover and reject all forms of racism and discrimination.”

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