Letters to Calgary city hall: Anti-racism measures need to involve curriculum changes, defunding the police

City to hear stories from the public on racism in Calgary as part of a public consultation

Protesters as Wednesday's anti-racism rally in Calgary. LAYLA DART for LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Fundamental changes in education and policing are needed if the city wants to combat racism, according to public submissions to be delivered to a city consultation Tuesday.

Sparked by the Black Lives Matter protests, the city acknowledged that systemic racism is a problem at home. Thousands of Calgarians joined rallies and protests after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minnesota police.

On June 15, council approved a notice of motion to create a diverse Anti-Racism Action Committee by October 2020.

As well, the city committed to a public consultation on systemic racism that includes public submissions and an expert panel. The city wanted to listen to those impacted by racism.

That meeting goes Tuesday.

Submitted letters on racism in Calgary were included in the city’s agenda package. There were 107 pages included in it by Monday afternoon.

“Calgary is my birthplace and although it is a relatively safe place, there have been jarring incidents of … racism that will not allow me to call this place home,” wrote Adrianne Williams.

“Me and my family have been subjected to acts of racism in the workplace, schools, daycare, on public transportation, walking and even outside our own home,” wrote Akhila Wolfe.

Public Submissions – Calgar… by Darren Krause on Scribd

Emphasis on changing the nature of education

Changes are needed in education to a more accurate, representative curriculum. This includes Black Canadian history that’s currently missing from classrooms, submissions read.

Many people said they have experienced racism in the current school system. Minorities continue to be discriminated because of the failure to address it in school.

“We need to abolish the current curriculum in schools and teach our youth the proper history of Canada,” wrote River Schoof.

As well as changing the curriculum, resources for best practices and helping teachers talk about racism need to be implemented.

“In terms of the curriculum, history is taught with a very white lens,” wrote Jasmine Johal, a teacher.

She said they teach about white colonists in depth, while people of colour are placed into one learning outcome.

“Teaching about racism is a choice whereas it should be a requirement.”

But funding in education is not enough, said many letters. BIPOC need to have a larger voice and be given leadership positions to address racial concerns. This will decrease racism in educational spaces and beyond.

“Every individual who does not have the education and awareness of racism … will continue to perpetuate racist ideas and policies,” wrote Neelam Pannu.

“Education is key.”

Calls to defund police included in the letters

Submissions highlighted the need to defund the Calgary police. Acts labeled as racist against BIPOC needs to be part of the conversation, people wrote.

“It is stressful to contact police and pray to God that the people in that car crew see you as a human being—as an equal,” wrote Valerie Benoit.

Many of the submissions say Black and Indigenous people are especially targeted, racially profiled and often harmed by the police. Many people lack trust in the police because of it.

“We as Natives are afraid of police because of it. We won’t call for a wellness check for fear of getting killed. Police should not be doing wellness checks period,” wrote Christine Curotte.

Calgary police Chief Mark Neufeld addressed claims of racism and calls to defund police in a media conference last week. He talked about steps they’re taking to address it.

He said defunding needed to be defined before it could move ahead. It also means that cities – and citizens – need to define what they want from the police.

“For some, this is about diverting money, for some this is about dismantling police and for others, it’s about disarming police,” he said.

Diversion of funds from police to social services

Police do conduct welfare check on individuals as a front line duty. Many critics have argued that funding for police to do this should be directed to social programs. This includes funding public resources such as education, homeless shelters and mental health initiatives. This will provide proper service to those who need it instead of dealing with an untrained officer.

“[It] will be the first step towards a brighter and more peaceful future,” wrote Schoof.

Submissions expressed personal experiences and conflicts with the police, being racially profiled and unjustly accused of criminal acts.

“Policing is necessary in every society but it should not be the necessary evil that it has become,” wrote Kandake Ijeoma.

“In any place in the world, especially a diverse city like Calgary, the police force should not be targeting and terrorizing people based on the color of their skin, but sadly this is the reality here.”

Addressing racism overall

Some of the letters did say that as a people of colour they were given some added opportunities.

James Aguirre, a Columbian-Canadian, said his skin colour and multi-lingualism have helped him move forward. He said he’s experienced racism, but wasn’t sure it was systemic.

“My skin colour and ability to speak more than one language have been an asset to me growing up here and have NEVER been detrimental to my success,” he wrote.

“All of this was possible because of hard work and the fact that systemic racism does not exist in Canada in 2020. I have experienced racism, but again this is from individuals, never from an organization or body of government.

Still, the vast number of submissions called for racist policies to be addressed everywhere. This includes healthcare, business, real estate, politics, education, police and other areas.

Many shared how they’ve experienced racism in the workplace and in their personal lives.

“Racist ideas create racist policies which then cause harm to our peoples,” wrote Pannu.

While Calgary may be better than some other cities, it is about enhancing the experience for all citizens and improving the livelihoods of the many people who live here.

“Laws need to be changed to protect vulnerable people. We did this in a heartbeat with COVID but have dragged our feet for years with racism,” wrote Pin Sahota.

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