Well, it happened again. Not for the first time and not certainly for the last.
On Saturday, March 20, the Founder and Director of Woezo Africa Music & Dance Theatre Inc., Wunmi Idowu was racially abused while speaking at a virtual anti-racism Arts festival founded by the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation who were not at the said event.
Wunmi was a panelist discussing building community and change through story telling when she was repeatedly called the N-word by elements who hacked the Zoom discussion where Central Vancouver Island Multicultural Society (CVIMS) was the presenter.
Given that this was an anti-racism event, Wunmi in a statement on Instagram said that she was deliberately targeted because the speakers before her spoke without any interruption and abuse. Even though an apology was issued by Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation, Wunmi said the CVIMS facilitator was not prepared for what was dished out at the forum and issued an apology which was framed in such a way to make it appear like it was an inter-personal conflict.
What was faced by Wunmi on Saturday is certainly not a one-off event. We in Canada take a moral high ground when it comes to our acceptance of people from all races and racism. We think we have done better than our neighbours down south but this is certainly not the case. Every day, we hear stories about someone called an N-word, Hijab being removed forcibly and even asking immigrants to go back to where they came from. Another example of racism these days is targeting Asian communities since COVID-19 crisis hit and blaming them for the spread through censure and vitriol. None of these are unconscious biases that surfaced. These are deliberate attempts at belittling another human being who belongs to a different ethnicity, race and heritage. Anyone who makes such an attack should have the fear of the law but in instances such as this it feels like impunity is prevailing and people are taking advantage of that.
The Immigrant Life has repeatedly pointed out in recent times how Asians are suffering from loss of jobs, reduction in income and facing physical violence in Canada as well.
Interestingly, last year a review and compilation of data by BCG and CivicAction threw light on the depth and pervasiveness of anti-Black racism in Canada, and how systemic racism against black individuals appears across their full lifecycle in areas like education, employment and even policing.
Among its shocking findings were that Black students are four times more likely to be expelled from a Toronto high school than White students. Black workers were twice as likely as Asian workers and four times as likely as White workers to report experiencing racial discrimination in major decisions at workplaces in Canada. Also Black university graduates earned only 80 cents for every dollar earned by White university graduates – despite having the same credentials. These findings also revealed that Black women were three times less likely to have a family doctor than non-racialized women in Ontario.
Canada has a chequered past. Our treatment of indigenous communities in the past lies at the very base of this racist structure and this monster is raising its head again. Our country is a land of immigrants and we need to do better. Better than our neighbours and better than every other country in this world. Yesterday was the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. On that day in 1960 the police in Sharpeville, South Africa, opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against apartheid “pass laws”.
Those who were responsible for Saturday’s racist actions should be punished under the law and made to apologize publicly in order to hold them accountable. We as Canadians believe that our beautiful country is an inclusive and a model nation but the hard truth is we have a long way to go toward achieving equity for our marginalized population. Only when we honour and respect every citizen – newcomer or not, black, or Asian, Indigenous, LGBTQ, Canadian or foreign born and regardless of what they look like or what accent they have, will Canada truly live up to its heroic reputation as that exemplary country that accepts and respects the right of every human being. The sooner we understand and address this, the better for us as a society and a nation.
March 25, 2021@ 1.02am EST. The Immigrant Life inadvertently reported the incident in a way that some members of the public misconstrued as suggesting that the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation was present at the event and mishandled the situation. We have now corrected this and made the article clearer by stating that the Organization itself was not at the event and it was the CVIMS facilitator that erred by making the space unsafe for Wunmi Idowu and the other panelists.