Delta North MLA Ravi Kahlon. (Photo submitted)

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

MLA Ravi Kahlon is travelling across B.C. to discuss emerging issues on racism and hate incidences

Everyone has a right to live without fear of violence or discrimination, yet too many people face racism and hate as part of their daily lives.

Our friends, neighbours, colleagues and family are being targeted simply for their identity — their race, faith, sexual orientation, gender identity or other traits that make them who they are.

Police-reported hate crimes have risen in B.C. in recent years, from 164 reported incidents in 2015 to 255 incidents in 2017. Sadly, evidence of this increase is regularly seen in our communities. From despicable acts like the recent SkyTrain assaults of a Muslim woman and a gay couple in Vancouver, to hateful comments posted on social media — all are stark examples of prejudices and hatred among us.

Last month, the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was released. This report’s tragic findings bring to the forefront the magnitude of the systemic racial and gendered human rights violations against Indigenous peoples, so severe the inquiry has called it a Canadian genocide.

Premier John Horgan is committed to engaging survivors, families and communities to create a path forward to end violence against women. These critical actions will be informed by our government’s broader commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

Our government is championing human rights, diversity and inclusion, and working to make life better for every person, in every community in British Columbia. Our work has included re-establishing the B.C. Human Rights Commission and redesigning the Multiculturalism Grants Program to better support organizations in their work to create a more welcoming province.

To build on this work, I’ll be travelling across the province this summer to meet with community leaders to discuss local, emerging issues on racist and hate incidences. As Parliamentary Secretary for Sport and Multiculturalism, I want to hear from leaders and organizations across our province who are passionate about building an inclusive British Columbia. I want to understand what is being done, what is working and what more we can do, together. I also want to encourage every person in B.C. to consider how they too can fight against racism and hate in their own lives.

The challenges are great. However, we cannot allow hatred to continue to express itself through violence and crime. B.C.’s greatest treasure is its people. We are privileged to live in the most culturally diverse province in Canada. B.C. is home to more than 230,000 Indigenous peoples, as well as residents who trace their origins to more than 200 countries or regions.

The insight I gain from these community engagements will continue to move us forward in building stronger communities. Our multicultural society enriches our lives and makes our province an amazing place to live. These consultation meetings are one of many steps we are taking to confront and eradicate racism. It is also a crucial part of our commitment to making life better for everyone in B.C.

Ravi Kahlon is MLA for Delta North and Parliamentary Secretary for Sport and Multiculturalism.

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