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Recognizing cultural diversity

By Coun. Chak Au

Published 11:19 PST, Fri February 19, 2021

Last Updated: 11:21 PST, Fri February 19, 2021

February is Black History Month. On December 14, 1995, Jean Augustine, Canada’s first Black female parliamentarian, sought to designate the month to recognize the contributions of Black Canadians to our history, as well as their equal status in our country. Her Motion was unanimously passed by Parliament and the first Black History Month in Canada was celebrated the following year.

The proportion of Black citizens in Richmond is not high. According to the 2016 census it is only 0.6 per cent, but that does not mean their influence and contribution to our community should not be celebrated. Many Black Canadians have made outstanding contributions to Richmond’s vibrant and unique history. One of them is Olympian Harry Jerome who was an outstanding athlete and won numerous awards for Canada. When he won the 100 metre bronze at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, he spent some time as a Richmond resident and teacher and was an inspiration to generations. In fact, his former-residence is only a few hundred metres from my home. He is an inspiring Black Canadian and his sporting exploits are worthy of nomination for the Richmond Sports Wall of Fame.

Although racism in Canada may not appear to be as severe as our neighbours to the south, it still tears at the fabric of our society. According to a 2019 study on the extent of racism in Canada by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, many Canadians from diverse backgrounds reported experiencing racism and discrimination due to their race. The survey also found that Black Canadians (54 per cent) and Indigenous peoples (53 per cent) are the two communities that suffer the most discrimination. In my daily conversations, many Black citizens in our community have told me similar stories.

The City believes there is no place for racism and discrimination in our community – ever. Our Cultural Harmony Plan, the first of its kind in Canada, is a roadmap for bringing cultures and backgrounds together and we continue to work toward implementing it. Council also unanimously passed a statement opposing racism and violence in our community regardless of race, colour or cultural heritage. Both can be found on the City’s website at www.richmond.ca.

Black History Month reminds us of an important thing: if people are still discriminated against because of their colour, we are not a harmonious society. Now is not the time for people to point fingers, but to work together to create harmony. That means all of us. Every day.

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