VIDEO: Interview with Langara Professor Pauline Greaves who sent a open letter to Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum about why he’s been very silent about a call to action from his constituents regarding the likely systematic discrimination and lack of diverse representation within Surrey’s city hall.
I have been reflecting for the last few of weeks on the worldwide demonstrations in reaction to the death of George Floyd. We are witnessing the veil being lifted on structural racism in our public and private institutions. The demonstrations have caused many countries, cities, and communities to reconsider the laws and policies that uphold the structural racism used in governance.
I am a person of colour. One reason for my involvement in local governance is the application and enforcement of policies with regards to minorities and ethic groups. It is evident that many municipal policies and regulations have been designed to discriminate against some in our society. This is reflected in who is elected to our local governments and who is hired to write and enforce local by-laws
So, it is with interest that I read an article on CBC’s Metro Matters that highlights the extent to which Metro Vancouver cities recognize diversity. The article highlights that, “every Mayor, 90 per cent of councillors, 90 percent of city managers, and all city planners are Caucasian”, and given that 49 per cent of Metro Vancouver’s population, based on the 2016 census are identified as persons of colour, this is sending a very disturbing message on our perception of equity and social justice.
There is clear evidence that there are individuals, be they elected or appointed, that do not recognize that structural racism exists. Consequently, they fail to recognize the need for strong policies and equity across all aspects of city governance. This recent information has made me realized that nothing has changed over the last 50+ years of my life.
In Canada we still fail to acknowledged that racism is not a only USA problem, but a problem that exist in our own backyard, it runs deep, and it is a silence that destroys cohesion, unity, equity, and social justice.
My message to you, Mr. Mayor, and to your City Councillors is that as leaders, you cannot remain silent when it comes to issues of social justice and equity. You have a responsibility to drive public dialogue. You have a responsibility to remedy the discrepancies in the management and enforcement of public policy. This responsibility includes addressing issues around diversity.
It is my opinion that this current Surrey Council does not care about the diverse voices of our citizens beyond tokenism. That this current Council does not care if diversity is reflected in City staffing, policies, or council representation.
Now is the moment for you, Mr. Mayor, to reinstate the Diversity Advisory Committee that you disbanded upon becoming Mayor. Now is the moment to provide this committee with a strong mandate to advise council and staff on issues relating to diversity, to remedy policies that are discriminatory and to ensure that procedures and strategies meet the needs of a truly diverse city.
Now is the time that this Diversity Advisory Committee be a fully integrated resource for the newly announced Surrey Police Board. Mr. Mayor, repeat after me, Black Lives Matter. You and your Council must represent all Surrey residents, regardless of their ethnicity, culture, or colour and must be included. This is a time of monumental change and the City of Surrey must not stand still.
Pauline Greaves, PhD
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