Winnipeg mayor opens two-day summit on racism

The summit comes as Winnipeg struggles with its image as an intolerant city


WINNIPEG — The mayor of Winnipeg says he’s hopeful a two-day summit being held at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights will produce tangible results on how to fight racism.

Brian Bowman organized the Mayor’s National Summit on Racial Inclusion after Maclean’s labelled Winnipeg the most racist city in Canada in a cover story at the beginning of this year.

The summit began Thursday and included a keynote address by Canadian author Joseph Boyden and a speech by Manitoba treaty commissioner James Wilson.

Activists who complained of “barriers” posed by the official summit also staged an alternative event outside the museum.

Organizer Lenard Monkman said the mayor’s summit charged a $50 fee and tickets sold out within a couple of days.

However, he said the two events shared similar goals.

“If we can create a better understand of each other, that bodes well for the communities, it bodes well for the city and it bodes well for the country,” he said.

Mayor’s summit participant Stephanie Zamora said communication on the issue of racism is crucial.

“People feel included and respected when they’re engaged in any type of conversation.”

The summit comes as Winnipeg struggles with its image as an intolerant city, especially for aboriginal people.

Winnipeg has come under a harsh spotlight numerous times. Brian Sinclair, an aboriginal double-amputee, died during a 34-hour wait in a Winnipeg emergency room in 2008 while many assumed he was drunk or homeless rather than someone seeking medical care.

Some have called Winnipeg the epicentre for missing and murdered aboriginal women following the death of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, whose body was pulled from the Red River wrapped in a bag last year.

And earlier this year, a Winnipeg high school teacher made national headlines when he ranted about aboriginal people on social media, accusing them of being lazy and seeking free money from non-aboriginals.

“I’m really going to be attentive to listening to what tangible steps can the city take, what tangible steps can individuals take, and organizations take,” Bowman said Thursday.

“There’ll be something, I’m sure, for all of us to do as we move forward.”


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