Opinion

Parnell: Racism alive and well

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It was heartening to see a solid turnout this past Tuesday evening, when more than 100 residents gathered on the steps of the Kelowna courthouse for the 6th annual candlelight vigil to honour the memory of missing and murdered indigenous women.

The issue is one that is plaguing Canada and has been ignored far too long. If hundreds upon hundreds of white women and girls had gone missing or been raped, murdered, left for dead, mistreated by the RCMP and government…well it wouldn’t have taken this long for our government to be holding a long-overdue inquiry.

But why did it take so long and why, as a country, are we not able to leave the past behind and work to make amends with our First Nations friends, helping to move forward as one?

The answer is racism.

While many of us sit back and raise our noses at the blatant racism south of the border, it’s high time that we look ourselves in the mirror and honestly start to change the way we view our own country.

Flat out: Racism is alive and well here in Canada, and in B.C. and right here in white-old Kelowna. All you have to do is write or talk in support of First Nations and you will hear people—mostly nameless—calling out all the old stereotypes about First Nations’ people.

Earlier this year the Capital News received a letter that put the blame for a string of First Nations youth suicides on indigenous elders, blaming them and other natives, not a system run by power-hungry whites that stripped natives of their culture, their identity, their uniqueness.

So if you think racism isn’t alive and well in Canada, think again.

This week a report was released regarding policing in northern B.C. that pointed out the failures of the RCMP to protect indigenous women and girls. But according to reaction, the report didn’t go far enough.

Farida Deif, Canada director of Human Rights Watch stated: “The report falls short in addressing policing failures in indigenous communities. Indigenous women and girls told us that the RCMP frequently blamed them for the abuse they suffered, shamed them over alcohol or substance use, or threatened to arrest them for trying to protect themselves from domestic violence.”

If you can’t trust the police who can you trust? But they are just like us. They grew up watching First Nations struggle with alcohol abuse, struggle to live under a government that tried to eradicate their culture. It’s almost ingrained in Canadian white culture, to blame First Nations for their own problems.

It’s shameful how we treated our aboriginal population. It has to change. Even at the vigil, certain media showed up and some politicians, but not close to the same kind of coverage or turnout for, let’s say, a visit by the Royal White Couple.

Come on Canada. Let’s be better.

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