Penticton - Proactive government and support to combat widespread and systemic racism against Aboriginal People was promised by Ujjal Dosanjh, Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Multiculturalism, human rights and Immigration. Dosanjh was addressing the Okanagan Aboriginal Forum on Hate Crime, the fourth in a series of such forums cosponsored by the Ministry Responsible for Multiculturalism and Immigration. "As a society, we have made strides towards reconciling injustices that have occurred against First Nations Peoples," said Dosanjh. "I pledge to you here today that I will do my part, as will my ministry staff, to aggressively launch and support programs to counter racism and facilitate your goals and aspirations."
The Penticton forum was co-sponsored by the En'owkin Centre, an educational institution located on the Penticton Indian reserve that provides education and race-relations programs and services. Penticton Chief Stewart Philip says government-facilitated forums like these, which acknowledge and counter racism in the Aboriginal community, are an important building block toward reconciliation. "There is rampant poverty in First Nations communities. Our formerly thriving society and culture have been eradicated," said Philip. "Before we can begin to solve these problems, we must acknowledge racism exists within all levels of today's society. I welcome the support the ministry is offering, because I believe life's successes and failures depend on building relationships," Philip added.
The Ministry Responsible for Multiculturalism and Immigration has co-sponsored three previous forums on hate crimes in the Aboriginal community in Vancouver, Prince George and Prince Rupert. Following the Penticton event, future forums are planned for Nanaimo and the East Kootenays. The forum series recommendations and final report will be utilized to provide the BC Hate Crime Team, the Ministry Responsible for Multiculturalism and Immigration, the BC Human Rights Commission and other government agencies a better understanding of issues facing members of the Aboriginal community.
The ministry is currently funding 10 projects totalling approximately $85,000 that are variously focussed on education of First Nations issues and anti-racism and bridge building between Aboriginal Peoples and the broader community.