We have seen a disturbing increase of acts of racism brought to light in British Columbia, including in the Okanagan and Interior. And every time, there are people who seem to be surprised that this could happen here. But for Indigenous, Black and People of Colour, this is the reality.
We all witnessed the dramatic increase in anti-Asian hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic. We have seen a backlash against Indigenous people and communities after the revelations of unmarked graves. And, this past week, we all saw a man in Kelowna go on a vile, disgusting, racist tirade towards a Sikh security officer who was doing his job.
That young man should not have to be accustomed to being treated that way, but for him and so many others, reacting in a calm manner is an all-important survival mechanism we have developed when confronted with racist vitriol.
As a government, we are working hard to develop and fund anti-racism initiatives across the province to help educate people on the impacts of racism and how to confront and heal from it. To educate the broadest swath of British Columbians possible on the realities of racism, we launched an Anti-Racism Awareness Campaign. To support local community organizations in combatting racism and offering support to those who need it, we created the Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network.
We’re also working to eradicate systemic racism in our institutions, from policing, to education, to healthcare. This is such important work that will move our communities closer to being more accepting, understanding, and safe spaces for everyone.
More importantly, as an elected official and as an individual, I need to call out this kind of behaviour. Enough is enough. No one should ever be treated this way, and no one should ever feel like they have a right to treat others in this way.
I encourage people across the Okanagan to join me in condemning these dehumanizing acts, wherever and whenever they may appear – if it is safe to do so. We need to call out racism for what it is. We need to hold our friends, coworkers and neighbours to a higher standard. And we need to stand together and say that this is not OK.
I love the Okanagan. This is my home; it is where I have chosen to raise my family and work in service to my community. I know we can do more to make our communities more inclusive, welcoming, and safe for everyone, and I look forward to doing that work alongside all of you.
Harwinder Sandhu is the MLA for Vernon-Monashee