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Fear and ignorance have spiked racism in the province: B.C’s human rights commissioner

Kasari Govender has been virtually interacting with citizens in remote, rural areas to address concerns of discrimination
Kasari Govender, British Columbia’s Human Rights Commissioner. (B.C. Human Rights Commission)

B.C. witnessed a spike in racism during the pandemic and “fear” and “ignorance” are fuelling it, said B.C.’s human rights commissioner, Kasari Govender.

“The spike in racism in BC was dramatic. It was a reflection point for us as a society,” said Govender.

People in Canada experience racism in all different ways, said the commissioner. And even though discrimination has been existing for a very long time in societies, the global movements around police brutality and racial profiling has drawn people’s attention towards racism of late.

“We find ourselves in a very important moment in the anti-discrimination movement and this has lent a sharper focus to addressing racism,” she said.

Since June, Govender has been hosting town hall via zoom to hear from residents in remote communities.

READ MORE : B.C. human rights commissioner hosting town hall via Zoom for Interior residents, organization

During these sessions, the commissioner told the Mirror that, a wide range of issues have come to the surface.

“We’ve heard different issues in different regions, some of them include inaccessibility to the human rights complaint system, difficulties in accessing the internet, discrimination in addiction services, inadequacy of income support and the issues of the active disability community among others.”

In rural areas, racism is often interlinked with economic concerns and some of these patterns, like anti-indigenous racism, are entrenched in the colonial history of Canada, said Govender.

“The solutions to addressing these issues are not simple.” But nonetheless, there is a need to “self educate” and have “uncomfortable conversations” about these issues.

Govender also said that her office will be launching an anti-racism awareness campaign across B.C.

The campaign seeks to connect with people on an emotional level to draw out and identify various degrees of racism–whether it’s an overt act or through hateful comments etc.

B.C.’s premier John Horgan has also asked the BC Office of the Human Rights Commissioner to provide advice about how to properly collect, store and use race-based data across ministries to help inform government policy..

“Collecting this data is an important step to be able to address racial disparities and how they show up, so there’s a more systemic aspect of addressing racism,” said Govender

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