Summerland Mayor speak on importance of anti-racism policy after it passes

'Not-racist' vs anti-racist

The Mayor of Summerland is sharing the importance of emulating what she and council would like to see in the community through their actions as municipal leaders, by unanimously passing an anti-racial discrimination and anti-racism policy.

Mayor Toni Boot, who is Black, has continued to fight against racism and hate in her community and often speaks out about her experience as a woman of colour.

In the summer of 2020, a local family's home was targeted with racist graffiti and Boot rallied people behind the family.

Further incidents of racism have happened since then, which the mayor has been working with council in order to address.

When council attended a local government leadership course earlier this year, the Lidstone & Company law firm provided an anti-racial discrimination and anti-racism policy template for local governments to tailor as an organizational policy.

"They felt that not only was it the right thing to do, not only with increasing attacks on people of colour, but also because they felt that it was important for local governments to have these policies to protect them in the legal sense," Boot said.

District staff utilized the templated resource from Lidstone & Company as the foundation for the proposed District anti-racial discrimination and anti-racism policy, after council passed a motion to draft the policy.

"I know that people have been critical of this. It's not like by having this policy, it's going to wipe out racism. I mean, it's like other policies, regulations and laws; it doesn't completely end whatever behaviour you don't want to see, whether it's legal or not," Boot added.

"But it is a way of council showing leadership, and the district as a whole showing leadership and showing the rest of the community, whether you live here or you're a visitor here, that this is something that we would like to see throughout the community."

During a public comment period at Tuesday's council meeting and in the previous meeting two weeks ago, a resident of the community, Mary-Anne MacDonald, raised concerns she had about the anti-racism policy for the community.

MacDonald, said that from her perspective, the policy should expand beyond people of colour and Indigenous people, calling it 'discriminatory,' as it leaves out Caucasians.

"The guiding principles still refers to visitors of colour and Indigenous people and is exclusive to those groups," she said on Monday.

"The district acknowledges and recognizes the existence in our community of racism in all its forms. How about recognizing the existence of racial diversity in the community instead. I agree that some safeguards can be in place but to what extent and at what point do we become too politically correct and when is it racism versus vandalism?"

Boot addressed these comments when she spoke to Castanet.

"The reason the policy speaks specifically about Indigenous, Black and people of colour is because those are the communities that are [affected] when you're talking about race. You're not talking about white people. Those are the communities that are inevitably targeted by racial discrimination or racism."

MacDonald also questioned why staff and council members would need to attend the training sessions, every two years.

The sessions are to understand what the policy means and how to carry it through the workplace, Boot explained.

"You will sometimes hear people say, 'Well, I'm not a racist.' Well, if you don't know, if you can't say that you are an anti racist, then in my perspective, you need to do a little bit of learning and self examination. Because there's a big difference between I am an anti racist, and I am not a racist."

More Penticton News