Premier John Horgan announced the launch of the Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network in Victoria on Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019. (Province of British Columbia/ photo)

B.C. launching anti-racism network

Centralized program will help communities share information and co-ordinate training and initiatives

The provincial government is launching a new anti-racism program aimed at making communities across B.C. safer and more inclusive.

“Every person deserves to live free from discrimination, but too many people in B.C. continue to face barriers, violence and prejudice simply because of who they are,” Premier John Horgan said in press release.

“Our government is stepping up to launch a network of supports that are proactive, innovative and co-ordinated across the province. We’re working to build a better province where people are free to be who they are and have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

Dubbed the Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network, the program is the result of a series of 21 community dialogues led by Delta North MLA and then-parliamentary secretary for sport and multiculturalism Ravi Kahlon in July and August of this year. (Kahlon was appointed parliamentary secretary for forests, lands, natural resources operations and rural development on July 26.)

RELATED: COLUMN: Fighting racism to build a safer, more inclusive B.C.

The meetings — held in 13 municipalities — explored issues and experiences around racism and hate, and asked community leaders for advice about how the government can help make B.C. safer and more inclusive. As a result of those dialogues, it was recommended the government redesign its existing Organizing Against Racism and Hate (OARH) program to better support community organizations in their efforts to fight racism and hate.

OARH was established in 2001 to “support a coordinated community approach to counter racism and hate activity in B.C.,” according to the program’s website, and 36 communities — including Delta — are listed as members. Locally, OARH is administered by Deltassist Family and Community Services Society.

Each community establishes community partnerships that “actively develop community capacity and skills, foster community engagement and build community sustainability plans to address racism and hate.”

As well, the partners agree on protocols for responding to incidents of racism, and members are responsible for providing annual summaries of incidents of racism observed and reported in their communities.

According to Statistics Canada, the number of hate crimes reported nationally has been trending upward since 2014. More incidents were reported in 2018 than in the nine years previous (with the exception of 2017), and Metro Vancouver had more hate crimes per capita than any other urban centre in Canada.

The Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network aims to stem the rising tide of hate by strengthening co-ordination among communities via a “hub and spoke” service delivery model.

The centralized “hub” will provide oversight and help communities connect to share best practices, information and resources, as well as offer co-ordinated training and anti-racism initiatives.

The community-based “spokes” will in turn represent and work with local members, identify local priorities, deliver services and move projects forward.

“Intolerance is on the rise in Canada and around the world, and we need to make sure there are supports in place to fight against hate of any kind,” Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Lisa Beare said in a press release.

“The Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network will give communities more tools to better respond to hate and help protect and celebrate the cultural diversity that makes us strong. This is part of our government’s commitment to make life better for every person, in every community in B.C.”

The province’s total investment in the network will be $540,000 per year. The Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture will issue a request for proposals in the coming months to identify a central service provider to deliver administer the network provincially, and individual communities will be engaged in early 2020 to become part of a network of up to 40 local service providers.

SEE ALSO: Anti-discrimination group wants to map offenders with cross-Canada hate atlas

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