Response to Mayor Doug McCallum: Diversity and Inclusion Statement of June 18, 2020

Last week 4 headliners from the City of Surrey’s Canada Day celebrations pulled out based on the fact that the City of Surrey still hadn’t responded to its citizens pleas for the City to commit to dismantling anti-Black racism. Under mounting pressure they posted this statement:

Once again, the City of Surrey is missing the mark. This is not enough. Below is the response on behalf of the petitioners, the African Heritage Festival of Music and Dance, & 5X Festival.

For two weeks now, we as a collective, have been asking the City of Surrey to show solidarity with Black and Indigenous communities and commit to anti-racism in our city. We’ve done this via social media, via petition, via headliners from the City of Surrey’s Canada Day Celebration, yet without adequate response.

We feel the city has been responding with the vocabulary of diversity and inclusion, rather than the vocabulary of anti-racism; and these are very different things. Let us preface by saying, we are not accusing anyone of being racist. We love Surrey, and we absolutely agree with Mayor McCallum that this city’s diversity is absolutely one of it’s fortifying pillars. The vibrancy of this city comes from that diversity.

However, all of our institutions are subject to systematic racism and acknowledging this fact is the very beginning of the journey of us moving through this together. Unfortunately, the City has yet to acknowledge this fundamental idea that there is systemic racism within the City of Surrey.

During June 15th’s Council Meeting, Mayor McCallum shared that in numerous speeches over the past 10 years he has said, “Surrey is unequivocally strengthened by our diversity. Our city is like a fabric and the threads that keep that fabric together are the different Cultures that we have and the diverse people that come together to work with one another.”

If we are to work with one another, please work with your citizens. If any one of your citizens feel that there is work to be done, then that is one to many. But it isn’t just one, it’s thousands. The Mayor went on to say that there is ‘no place for racism, discrimination or intolerance here or anywhere in the world.’ Well if there is no place for it, then it is time for us to accept and acknowledge the reality is that it does exist, here and everywhere in the world.

Where are the actions and policies that the City of Surrey is employing to specifically oppose racism? Not promote diversity, but dismantle racism. Let us be more specific in helping define the difference. According to the Canadian Race Relations Foundation:

Diversity is a term used to encompass the acceptance and respect of various dimensions including race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, socio-economic status, religious beliefs, age, physical abilities, political beliefs, or other ideologies.

Anti-Racism however is an active and consistent process of change to eliminate individual, institutional and systemic racism.

As the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre shares, “Some people may say they prefer the term “diversity.” … Popular/mainstream understandings of diversity often function to reinforce false notions that there is a level playing field in our society and  there are simply “differences” among those on the field that need to be respected.

Without diminishing the fundamental need for respect (as a human right), discourses of diversity often work in favour of maintaining racism and systemic racism because they fail to take into consideration, to analyze and truly critique and oppose imbalances of power among “diverse” individuals and groups.

The primary failure of the idea of  diversity is that it is premised on the false (and for the mainstream, comfortable) idea that equality already exists, as does equal access to the means of communication, participation in the economy, and so on.

The Province of British Columbia also separates Multiculturalism and Anti-Racism as the following:


As the most ethnically diverse province in Canada, British Columbia welcomes nearly 40,000 new immigrants every year. A rich multicultural society helps nurture inclusiveness, understanding and mutual respect. It is up to all of us to ensure that our multicultural society is supported today and for future generations.

One of B.C.’s greatest strengths is the diversity of the people who call this province home. Cultural diversity and increased participation and engagement by all cultures is vitally important to create a strong and vibrant social and economic future for British Columbia.

B.C.’s multicultural society is a key incentive to attract newcomers to our province and help address our regional skill shortages and grow our economy. With one million job openings expected by 2020 in B.C., immigrants will play a vital role in the economic well-being of the province.


B.C.’s multiculturalism policy states that violence, hatred and discrimination on the basis of racial identity have no place in our society. The province’s antiracism program empowers communities and organizations to maintain partnerships and develop projects to promote multiculturalism, address racism and build inclusive communities.

Anti-racism is the practice of identifying, challenging, preventing, eliminating and changing the values, structures, policies, programs, practices and behaviours that perpetuate racism.

Many people think racism is not a problem in multicultural Canada, but racism still exists in many places, including British Columbia. Racism can take many forms and is often implicit in our attitudes, behaviours, beliefs and values. It is up to all of us to take a collaborative community approach to challenge and prevent racism and hate crime.

So while the statement Mayor McCallum read to Council on Monday for Canadian Multiculturalism Day on June 27th, is a great place to celebrate the city’s diversity, your response to the calls for the City of Surrey to commit to dismantling racism is not the place for such commentary.

As the Mayor shared himself on Monday, 22% of BC’s Indigenous population lives in Surrey. Not mentioned was that Surrey is also home to the largest Black population in British Columbia. Do these communities not deserve their City’s commitment to antiracism?

Yes, naming Henry Houston Scott Park in honour of one of the first African American families to settle in the area is important work; however it does not tackle the institutionalized racism that the Black community encounters on a regular basis.

If the Mayor and City Councillors do indeed stand by the words of their statement and ‘are constantly looking at how we can strengthen the diverse and inclusive society we have in Surrey’, then committing to dismantling institutionalized anti-Black and antiIndigenous racism should be a natural step.

If they truly agree that ‘racism against Black Indigenous and POC has not been eradicated,’ then we urge you to proactively do something about it. If they wish to “assure {us} that {they} will continue to condemn and eliminate all acts of hate and discrimination in our city,” then please respond to our specific asks and tell us how.

Share with us the City of Surrey’s action plan for anti-racism. What tangible steps is the City of Surrey taking to actively dismantle racism?

Systemic racism, and specifically anti-Black racism, are real, and the lack of any action from the leaders of our city in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement is frankly, hurtful. Especially given that the population of the city of Surrey is 60% Black, Indigenous, and people of colour, that Surrey has the largest Black population in British Columbia, and that we are in the midst of the largest civil rights movement of our generation; the lack of any statement or commitment to anti-racism from the city of Surrey in response to this is deplorable.

We demand better leadership from those entrusted to lead our city and we once again ask that the City:

  1. Acknowledges that anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism exist in the City
  2. Acknowledges that civic institutions have tacitly perpetuated systematic racism
  3. Clarifies what percentage of the executive leadership of the City is diverse, and how that can change
  4. Commits to actively dismantling systemic racism, discrimination and intolerance from our systems
  5. Commits to drafting and putting into place a policy ensuring that Surrey is an inclusive and equitable place for Black and Indigenous and POC communities






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