A new report says action is needed to tackle “everyday and systemic anti-Indigenous racism in Surrey.”
A 24-page report made public Tuesday (June 16) brings to light topics discussed during an event held in South Surrey last February, when 43 people gathered to discuss the Indigenous experience of racism in Surrey, and how to address it.
“We heard how Indigenous residents face racism every day,” Jeska Slater, event facilitator and report author, said in a news release. “We also learned from them how we can fight racism.”
The symposium was part of Skookum Lab, a social-innovation project designed to tackle Indigenous child and youth poverty in Surrey. The gathering was convened by the Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee, a coalition that advocates for B.C.’s largest urban Indigenous community.
The report, titled “Seeing Racism Through an Indigenous Social Innovation Lens,” is posted to surreyindigenousleadership.ca.
“The two days were grounded in Indigenous protocol and culturally safe ways of being and learning together,” the report says. “Although the topic was difficult and painful, participants were courageous and found strength in the solidarity expressed amidst Symposium participants. The event was one of the first Indigenous-specific symposiums ever held in Surrey. It was an important jumping off point to combat racism towards Indigenous residents.”
The rate of Indigenous child and youth poverty in Surrey is among the highest in Western Canada, the report notes. “Indigenous child and youth poverty is a persistent issue and systemic problem. There are many systems in place that allow inequities to flourish and keep Indigenous children and youth at a socioeconomic disadvantage from their non-Indigenous peers.”
Indigenous-Surrey residents reported that they are repeatedly perceived as “knowing nothing”, “on welfare”, “lazy”, “violent”, and “not good mothers,” according to the report, a document that shares their “painful and common experiences. They conveyed how anti-Indigenous racism is rooted in societal beliefs that Indigenous peoples are inferior, impoverished, and inadequate.”
Participants acknowledged that “anti-Indigenous racism exists everyday and in multiple forms,” the report continues. “They discussed the interpersonal and relational forms of racism while sharing many stories of individuals and community groups acting in discriminatory, hateful, and prejudicial ways.”
The discussions “were a chance to acknowledge that racism exists in multiple forms, happens everyday, and has profound and painful consequences. Repeated and frequent acts of racism are a part of the lived experience of urban Indigenous peoples in Surrey.”
Joanne Mills, co-chair of the Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee, said the symposium’s findings offers a “new direction to go forward in our mission of making Surrey a great place to raise an Indigenous child.”