It’s an overwhelmingly sad and unacceptable statistic: 70% of Indigenous, Black Asian or People of Colour feel isolated, lonely and unsafe in Victoria because of their race and ethnicity. 71% personally experienced racism in the last five years and report this occurs regularly: daily, weekly and monthly.
Those are just some of the numbers released in May 2021 from a racism study produced by the Greater Victoria Local Immigration Partnership and the Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria.
Their study explored perceptions, experiences and responses to racism in Greater Victoria. Close to 1,000 people engaged with an online survey released last Fall.
“People seem to think that there is no racism here but the only people I’ve heard that from are white folks who tend to spin it as ‘well it wasn‘t REALLY racism… they were just overreacting.’ Having our experiences of racism belittled and dismissed does even more harm.” – Indigenous biracial/mixed race person, identifies as female, born in Canada (respondent in Racism in Greater Victoria: A Community Report).
Now, the City of Victoria wants residents to participate in a Welcoming City Strategy that will serve, they say in a recent media release, as a “roadmap to guide Victoria towards becoming a stronger, more inclusive community where everyone, including newcomers, immigrants and refugees, are accepted, respected and feel like they belong.”
As part of the Strategy, newcomers to Victoria and long-time residents are invited to share their lived experience to ensure the Welcoming City Strategy will reflect their collective voice, vision and values.
Until May 30, people can visit the City’s online engagement platform Have Your Say to share their stories: do they feel a sense of welcome and belonging? What would make them feel like they belong here? Stories can also be about experiences of inclusion or exclusion, participating in community life, and if/where they feel diversity is welcomed. In addition, the City is inviting ideas on what would help make Victoria a more welcoming city for all.
The lived experiences and ideas that are shared will broaden the community’s perspective and help inform the development of the Welcoming City Strategy.
“As a former refugee, I have experienced first hand how important it is to make connections and find community,” said Councillor Sharmarke Dubow. “In developing the Welcoming City Strategy, we can reimagine together how to make Victoria more welcoming, equitable and inclusive so that everyone can reach their full potential.”
The public engagement platform and plan is part of the City’s ongoing work to combat racism and discrimination.
On October 8, 2020, City Council adopted the Accessibility Framework, Inclusion Policy and Short-Term Action Plan to “operationalize the goal of providing accessible facilities, services, regulations, programs and employment to proactively remove and prevent barriers faced by individuals in our community.”
And, they say, enriching the lives of newcomers was the theme for the City’s 2020 Participatory Budgeting process. A $50,000 grant was shared among seven community-led projects, ranging from food sustainability to gardening, financial literacy, programs to build relationships between newcomers and Indigenous community groups, an app to make it easier for newcomers to access healthcare, and workshops to educate the community on how they can help combat racism by being stronger allies to visible minorities.
In addition, Victoria has established a new Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion to imbed equity in policies, programs and services to advance the removal of systemic barriers. This Office is developing an Equity Framework that will apply an equity lens to all City operations, programs and services. It will be presented to Council this Fall for consideration.
It is also collaborating with the SFU Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue on the City’s equity and inclusion update of its Engagement Framework and will be co-designing the City’s virtual Engagement Summit planned for the fall.
Creating a Welcoming City Strategy is an action in the City’s 2019 – 2022 Strategic Plan under the objective ‘Health, Well-Being and a Welcoming City.’
“Council is committed to helping create a city where everyone feels welcomed, accepted, safe and has the opportunity to prosper,” said Mayor Lisa Helps. “The Welcoming City Strategy is intended to remove barriers to City services and foster a compassionate and neighbourly community where all residents experience a sense of belonging and where we tackle racism and discrimination head on.”
To learn more and have your say, visit: engage.victoria.ca.