By Harinder Mahil
Recently there have been a number of incidents of racism in British Columba. Two such incidents concern members of the Indo-Canadian community.
The first one relates to a man hurling racist insults towards a Sikh security guard outside of a Kelowna COVID-19 vaccine clinic on July 13, 2021.
A video taken by a witness shows a man with a placard — who was identified later as a well-known protestor in the community — with 10 others protesting outside of the Trinity Church COVID-19 immunization clinic.
The video shows a security guard asking the group to move along. This is when the man with the placard goes on a tirade, repeatedly telling the guard that “he is not a Canadian” and that he should “go back to your country.”
Premier Horgan tweeted abut the incident and described this person’s behaviour as vile and racist.“If this is how you treat people, you are the problem. Racism is a scourge and we must stand together against it to build a better province,” said Horgan.
According to press reports the Kelowna RCMP is conducting an investigation into the incident.
A second incident took place at Aspen Park in Newton area of Surrey on July 28. Two elderly Indo-Canadian women, who were with their grandchildren, said that a group of young white males shouted racial insults at them and a woman who was with this group threw garbage and French fries towards them.
Racism and discrimination are rooted in the structure of Canadian society itself, in governments, the workplace, courts, police and education institutions. Racism can be explicit (as in the two examples) but often exists in implicit, subtle and insidious forms that can be hard to pin down.
What can be done about these or other such incidents?First and foremost, it is important to confront racism and make the incident public so that others know about it. Are there any witnesses? If there are, ask then to record the incident in some way.Bystander intervention is a method of attempting to put a stop to an act of violence or discrimination against another.
This is the only way the public would know what happened and express its opinions on racist incidents. Inbothsituations in Kelowna and Surrey, the incidents were made public through social media.
In this era when racism is on the rise in Canada and the US, Education is the best tool for tackling racism and discrimination and building inclusive societies.
Our elected officials and civic leaders have an important role to play in building an inclusive society. They must work with anti-racism activists to condemn racism and promote equality and non-discrimination.
I was glad to see the tweet issued by Premier Horgan on the July 13 incident in Kelowna. Similar, a number of elected officials including Labour Minister Harry Bains, and Members of parliament Sukh Dhaliwal and Randeep Serai participate in a demonstration on August 3 to condemnthe Aspen Park incident.
It is important that government officials and policymakers create, enforce and fund policies to eliminate racism and discrimination.
Some members of our community have raised the issue of the role of the police. I do not expect the police to play a significant role. They get involved only if the situation escalates and there is some type of physical confrontation. Otherwise, in most situations police does not play a role.
All of us have a roleto play in combatting racism and building a just and inclusive society. This means taking whatever steps we can in our own way.
Harinder Mahil is a founding member of the West Coast Coalition Against Racism (WCCAR) which was established by a group of anti-racist activists in 2020