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Interactive: Winnipeg leaders on a momentous day

In their own words, aboriginal and civic leaders tell Maclean’s about Jan. 22’s momentous press conference


 

Just two-and-a-half hours after reading a Maclean’s cover story on racism in Winnipeg, the city’s mayor, Brian Bowman, stood before the media with 30 aboriginal leaders and advocates at his side. The leaders, assembled hastily, stood before the media in solidarity, with promises to “turn this ship around.” In the days after that Jan. 22 press conference, Maclean’s spoke to some of those people who were in the room that day about the meaning of that moment. An extended selection of some of their words are below.

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Interactive by Adrian Lee. Interviews, which have been condensed and edited, were done by Rachel Browne and Genna Buck. 

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Jenny Gerbasi, city councillor, Fort Rouge East Fort Garry

Tell me about how you found out about the press conference and why you decided to go.

At about 9 o’clock I think the mayor’s office heard, but when I first heard it was maybe an hour or so later. So, not long after they heard they contacted councillors and told us that there was going to be this press conference and to come down to address the Maclean’s article. And so I thought “Wow, that’s interesting. And I saw who was going to be there—you know, the aboriginal leadership and community leaders and all this, and I thought ok I definitely want to be there. And I didn’t know what was going to be said until I got there, or what was going to happen. And what was most remarkable was the mayor’s office was opened up to all of us, Aboriginal community activists, indigenous people. All the leaders before the press conference went into his office and it was all probably forty or more people in there. There were prayers, there was conversation, it was open to everyone, and then everybody came out together in solidarity. It was a really amazing feeling. It was really great.

What did you think about the mayor’s remarks and the approach he took?

I thought it was the absolute right response for our city. It was really turning a new page. I think, as a new mayor, I don’t think people knew what he was going to do. I mean it was coming out of something that was kind of a slam against our city, at least it felt that way to some people. What was so great about the response was that it faced the truth. It wasn’t denial. That was what I was concerned about initially. I thought I’ve never really seen this kind of reaction. And I know there was surprise from a lot of people about how honest the reaction was from Winnipeg and from the mayor’s office. And I think that honesty and dealing with things and facing things and talking about action and hope and what we can do together was just really refreshing. And as a city councilor, that’s what I’m hearing from people I’ve been talking to in the community. People are really finding that this really was the right response for Winnipeg. The response turned this into a way for us to go forward. I don’t think we can deal with these problems unless we shine the light on them. It wasn’t a defensive response, which is what everybody was expecting. And it’s what usually happens. It was just really cool to see an open, honest, not defensive response that was truthful. And I think that really inspired a lot of people and really gave a lot people a really good feeling, despite the seriousness of the issue.

The Mayor said he’s going to hold leaders’ feet to the fire and push them to follow up. Are you going to be doing that? What are you going to encourage the city to do?

I’m here to work with the community and with the mayor as we have these conversations about how to go forward. I don’t think anybody has a single answer right now. But what he demonstrated was the political will that’s needed to make change and the openness to community leaders that can help make that change. I am am one of many, many people in that group. I just think it’s the right approach. Winnipeg has a lot of strengths, in its community leadership, all these different people coming together. That’s how we’re going to get things done. That’s how we always get things done. He’s recognizing that. So by bringing everyone together, having the dialogue, you know I saw a lot of political will to address this issue. And that’s something that’s kind of refreshing on the political scene. You don’t always see that.

What’s your vision for what the next step might be?

I think that the first step is sitting down with the people. A lot of people in that room are already working on these issues. There are already a lot of things in motion. We’re a new council. This isn’t one individual’s vision, this is something collectively that Winnipeg is going to do. And I’m ready and waiting to be part of that. I come from a background of being an advocate for human rights and trying to be a voice for people that are disenfranchised and to help them be a part of what we do. I just want to bepart of that and help the community, the mayor, the council. I don’t think anyone has the exact steps yet that we need to take. It’s not just the city that’s going to act, we need all levels of government to act to deal with racism. There’s already things we’re doing in Winnipeg and we can do more.

Are there racism challenges particular to Winnipeg?

I think that the work we’ve done in Winnipeg towards human rights in many different ways are something that can help us with what we’re dealing with in Winnipeg, but we’re dealing with the same thing that everyone else is dealing with across the country and across the world. So whatever we do, others can learn from, and we can learn from what others are doing across Canada too. Everyone’s facing the same issues. The Canadian Museum of Human Rights came from the will of Winnipeggers to talk about these issues. A lot of this is about facing it and shining a light on it. I feel like that’s why the press conference felt like a game-changer—the openness and the depth with which we were talking about something like racism. You tackle racism by putting it out in the open. Theracism and the discrimination that sometimes comes from people is because they don’t know the person, they see them as the other. And if we are all together, talking and dealing with this, with the people we’re talking about, we all become people instead of the other: us and them. That’s what really changes when you start having that conversation. A real one, that’s genuine and inclusive.

Angela Cassie, external relations, Canadian Museum for Human Rights

Tell me about the press conference.

Certainly it was shorter notice, but when we got the call from the mayor’s office we recognized that it was an important opportunity for the museum to stand with other community leaders because of the importance of the subject matter for the city and the country, so certainly we did everything we could to be able to stand together with other community leaders and demonstrate the importance of education and conversation with regards to this topic. It’s a shared responsibility and we certainly see that the museum has a role in that.

What was your impression of the mayor’s remarks and his approach?

I think certainly demonstrates quite a bit of leadership to say the community is standing together and we recognize these challenges.  And we’re going to move to action. When we look at why the museum is in Winnipeg, it’s because there’s a long history of people coming together, whether it’s the general strike or women’s rights to vote or Louis Riel and Metis rights, there’s a long history in this community of people saying yes, there’s a problem and here, we’re going to take action and work together to find solutions. I think it’s very much in the spirit of the city of Winnipeg. I’m very happy to stand there with other leaders and say “now, let’s move to action.”

What do you want the next step to be? What will you be lobbying the city for?

Our role is really around education. So I think what we do is highlight a lot of the story in Canada’s past but also in an international context, where there have been incidents of racism, where it has prevented people from meeting their full potential. Our role is to demonstrate how people have organized, how they have come together, how they have resisted and persevered.  Let’s take inspiration from these lessons and find our path for our city and our country. We’re also an institution that can bring people together. It’s not just education of community leaders.

What’s your direct approach to racism in your work?

It’s providing people a sense of Canada’s history—where we have made mistakes, where we have fallen short, where racism has diminishedpeople’s capacity of fully participating in our community, but again showing how people have organized. One of the stories we talk about is Viola Desmond. You know, some people use the courts, some people use community activation,some people use education, but at the end of the day it’s about having conversations and bringing people together and ultimately providing them a better sense of what the challenges are.

We’re not shying away from these issues.

One of our messages is about that hope and being able to progress and move forward. We recognize that Canadians have a strong commitment to human rights. If we can continue to inspire people in that way and encourage that conversation, we’re happy to participate.

Marty Morantz, city councillor, Charleswood-Tuxedo-Whyte Ridge

I don’t recall if a clipping was on my desk or if I had heard it on the radio on the way in. By the time I got to the office, I’d heard that the Maclean’s article had come out. I had meetings earlier in the morning, so I didn’t have a chance to read it literally 10 minutes before the meeting in the mayor’s office.

I would have to say once I started getting into the article, a lot of the things in the article rang true. It was heartbreaking to read. I’m not really sure how to describe it other than that. I found myself wishing I could take issue with many things written in the article, but at the end of the day, although no article is perfect, it generally highlighted a very serious issue. And I think there was recognition of that.

There’s racism everywhere, it’s an unfortunate scourge in our society, and I think we need to be aware of it and work diligently to change peoples’ attitudes and try to create an environment where people have more understanding of each other and not just view someone as a group of people, but as an individual.

One of the things before this story broke that I had the opportunity to do was [work at] a community centre that assists inner city youth in developing their skills and talents around music and poetry and writing. I went there and I was very moved the see the kind of work being done there. I met a lot of the kids that were there, had a chance to speak with them, a couple of them sang songs for me, and talked about what the community centre meant to them. I was thinking about that visit when the story broke, and I think those are the kinds of things that, as a city councillor, I would like to be supporting more of, things that we can do actively in the community to help people to improve their lives and basically realize their true potential.

In our first week, one of the mayor’s platforms items was to vote to give $150,000 to the United Way for the ending homelessness strategy; that was a very good thing that we did in our first week. Those are the kinds of ideas that I think we need to make in our community. That goes a long way to healing divisions and helping people get their lives on track.

I was very proud of our mayor and his leadership on this issue. He set an example for everybody as to the kinds of values that we embrace here at City Hall and hopefully in the city as a whole. I was very pleased to see how he handled the situation and I would not have changed a thing.

John Orlikow, city councillor for River Heights/Fort Garry

I received the article the night before. The mayor sent out a request for us to show up sometime after 9 and off we went.

When I first saw the headline, the first stage was uh-oh. Where is this article going to go, will this be an opportunity for moving the agenda forward on dealing with racism in Winnipeg or how will we react to this? I think we reacted quite well.

Did I like the article for Winnipeg? Not so much. But if that article is going to do what I think it will do, which is help us really start focusing on and addressing the issue in Winnipeg and getting everybody with a cause to move beyond just words and into action, that’s what I’m hoping this article will do.

It seemed like a lot of solidarity. There wasn’t a lot of anger or finger pointing…everybody was sitting together, roaming through the room together, and chatting with each other. It seemed to be quite positive that we were all together to start doing some change.

Change has already happened. Conversations people were having from that article were happening. Every dinner table in Winnipeg was probably having a chat about what is racism, who is racist, and are we really? That brings the issue to the surface, now how can we take all of these great groups out there…and help them be better?

City Council needs to be the role of facilitator, where we help other groups who are more local, more engrossed with addressing the issue daily, and really have the community sense to do it. We need be helping those groups… being that facilitator and bringing those groups together. For example, providing space so they can have these conversations. And looking at ourselves, are there areas where we can be improving out own policies, one of the policies we did before was becoming a Human Rights City, try to be certified for that. This will give it an extra push that the city can take a leadership role on. We can’t be doing it all, we need these groups to  be empowering them, so they can do it.

There’s a lot of aboriginal groups. I personally think the best recourse are these very local, small groups in the communities, either aboriginal, African, Ukrainian, getting those groups to start working together, rather than doing their own focus. Let them come up with some plans that are local-based and come up with ways to move them forward.

Racism is painful. Talking about unpleasant issues is always painful. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be talking about them.

It was a good showing of solidarity, and I believe we always had that. But really what we need to do is take that solidary that we have and move it to more action.

Working with they mayor right now, they’re working on a couple of plans to get a facilitation role, work with these groups, and try to help them connect, provide some resources. We have to get together as different groups…

I used to work in the inner city for a lot of years and got a real eye-opener on some of the racism issues and the fact that most of these people that are victims of racism are actually incredible assets to the city.

The mayor is already committed to doing more, and it’s just a matter of us getting some policies and some guidance down for that. The article maybe moved the issue up a little bit more, but I believe we as a city were already heading this way.

I’ve always been a big believer in the Charter. I think Canada is unique in that. We should start celebrating diversity and different groups so we don’t start falling into what other countries are doing with this anti-immigration, anti-other approach. We’ve got to start celebrating all the cultures that come into Winnipeg and Canada.

Althea Guiboche, activist and founder of GotBannock.ca

The mayor asked me himself to come down and support his announcement. They said it was due to the Maclean’s article and Winnipeg being called the most racist city in Canada

It needs to be a community-wide, nation-wide initiative for achieving less racism and broadening perspective and including training, cultural workshops not just for indigenous, for other cultures as well, we could all use a lesson in each other’s cultures and beliefs…we are all one race in the end, we are the human race.

I’m definitely going to be holding Bowman accountable as well as many other politicians. That’s one of my personal goals. I think if we can come together and put our differences aside and have a real, solid healthy conversations, hopefully we can achieve change.

I think it’s more because there are so many outstanding, outspoken, courageous awesome indigenous leaders in Winnipeg, were addressing it more vocally, more passionately, more everything, the whole nation is looking towards us because we’re leading the way with this initiative; I’d like to think so anyway.  We’re putting it on the table, we’re having those conversations, as difficult as they are, I think it needs to be addressed. The old racist views need to be laid to rest and we need to have a different social outlook if we’re going to achieve anything positive.

Especially in the work I do, I encounter negative attitudes, old views, people who don’t want to change and they’re trying their best to keep their old ways.

[If someone is racist to my face], I would address it, and call them on their stance, converse with them. It would probably be a very tense moment. But I never let racism slide. I always address it, I always have, I always will, and I don’t let it define me. Those are just words, those are just stereotypes, they don’t know the real me, the true me. I try not to take it personal, but sometimes it’s so hard, especially the online comments…

It serves to remind my people of the powerful village we once were, as a kind of wakeup call to what we used to be and we can still be. For others, it shows the kind of people that we were, the kind of people that we can be, that we still are. We are honest, trustworthy, we are not those stereotypes that have been labeling us in a negative way since the onset of colonization. We are hard-working people, contributors to society, all those good things the stereotypes dehumanize us with.

We have such a high concentration of outspoken indigenous leaders, we’re always on the ball, always on top of all the racist stuff that goes on, we’re calling people out more, I tjust think that the difference is that we’re facing it, it’s on the table, we have to deal with it. However ugly of an issue it is, it needs to be dealt with in a helpful, positive approach. Hopefully we can do that together.

The North End itself was painted with a harsh brush. I lived here a decade ago…it was a very dangerous neighbourhood, to go back on that same neighbourhood now, it’s all community, it’s school…daycares, it’s really transformed and I really applaud my community for trying to work hard…the whole neighbourhood, it’s such a different area, a positive, happy area.

Somebody needs to stand up and do it. People need a leader to follow.

Jamie Wilson, Commissioner, Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba

I think I was at work and I got a call around 11. The night before that, the cover had come out, I saw pictures of it on Facebook. There was lots of people talking about it. But I hadn’t seen the article yet. Thursday morning, there was more and more talk about it, it was on news. Then around 11, I got a call from Mayor Bowman’s office asking if we could go to a press conference at 12:30… I got there probably around 12:15 or so, met with his staff and talked about what we could say and what we thought about the article, how important it was.

One of the women from Mayor Bowman’s office sent the story. We all went through it really quick. We just had a PDF of the article and we all kind of blazed through it really fast. We had seen the cover the day before.

[The response was] a bit mixed. I think the cover and the article are two separate issues. I’m kind of torn on the effectiveness of the cover itself. The article I thought played on the negative, then as we kind of talked about it as a group, we thought well we do need that, but we have to recognize all of the good stuff that’s going on. We need to acknowledge the negative, but we need to recognize all of the good stuff that’s going on in Winnipeg. I right away thought about the Pas.

I think that’s what was important about the press conference. It was a group of us, everybody that spoke there, spoke on a personal level, It wasn’t all politics and prepared statements. It was really deeply personal. It seemed refreshingly unusual and you could see the loyalty to Winnipeg on display. We were acknowledging a weakness, I guess, acknowledging a vulnerability as a city. And to see individuals acknowledging that themselves as well was a pretty groundbreaking thing. People don’t like to do that right.

That takes a huge amount of courage from leadership, from the community. And there’s some in the community that would still like to, it makes people uncomfortable to talk about these issues.  I think people would like to remain comfortable and not talk about racism, deny that it exists, that it’s not their experience, so it can’t be other peoples’ experience. This was a real personal collection of people saying this is a reality we have to deal with.

It was completely organic. Everyone there had a different perspective. That’s what was kind of cool about it. I think that if the mayor, the city would have come out and said there’s no racism in Winnipeg, which is what happened in the Pas when that story first broke, you would have had an immediate reaction from the aboriginal community saying there is racism in the city, it’s everywhere, not just Winnipeg, it’s an issue all over the place. And it would have created a real dichotomy, an argument. Instead of moving ahead and talking about what we can do as a city, we would have been caught in this fight about is it or isn’t it. I don’t believe in getting into this racism Olympics about which city is worse than another city. Rankings and stuff like that. So it was refreshing to see people just saying yah this is an issue, let’s do something about it. Taking responsibility; maybe that’s what it was. It was the city taking responsibility for something. And you don’t see that often from individuals, especially from leaders. Leaders like to defer responsibility.

I come from a mixed marriage. My dad’s Cree, my mom’s Scottish, so they’ve had experiences their whole life. I don’t let racism define me as an individual and I’d rather talk about solutions, how we can move forward, how we can build bridges. Because if we talk about racist experiences, that’s an endless dialogue. But if we start talking about examples where we can build bridges, I’ve seen lots of them, where aboriginal communities have worked really well with non-aboriginal communities, I’ve seen tons of them, those are the kinds of things we need to talk about. We need to acknowledge the racism, because I think we’re in denial if we don’t, living in a fantasy land if we don’t acknowledge the racism and face it, but we can’t only talk about it or we’ll fail. We have to talk about the positive and the potential in the relations between First Nations and Canada. Winnipeg as ground zero in this relationship between First Nations and Canada, both in positive and negative terms.

Janice Lukes, acting deputy mayor

The day that it unfolded, I was in the ward dealing with some constituent issues and I received an email that the mayor was holding a press conference in relation to the Maclean’s article and he asked us if we were available and if we could come down to city hall to be in attendance for the press conference. It’s been very hectic at city hall in the last couple of months since Mayor Bowman came to office and with seven new councillors…hectic to say the least, yes.

I absolutely read the article. My executive assistant printed off the article. I raced in, sat down, and had about 20 minutes to go through it. I read it before the conference.

I’m a media junkie, I’ve been following all of the stories and all of the situations that had been evolving over the past, I’ve lived in Winnipeg for the last 30 years and especially in light of the situations that have come up: Rinelle Harper goes to a school in my ward, I’m familiar with the school, and it hits home.

It was really hard to read because it’s true. We have huge challenges here. I grew up on a farm on the interlake? Near a residence and students from the reserve would come and go to school. Looking back, there was never any classes or discussion on why they were there. It’s so bizarre looking back. We never had any discussions to talk about cultures, to talk about lifestyles, it was a very bizarre time. It was very hard to read the article, but it’s true.

People are always afraid, judgmental of anything that’s different.

We must think bigger, we must think beyond just us. Everyone is different and everyone has a right to be different. And we need to become more aware of that and we need to teach it in our schools. We have to start with our kids, I really believe that. We must get this into our schools more so than ever before…

Learning about other kids’ cultures, learning about Canada. Sharing cultures and becoming more of a global citizen.

This isn’t going to go away overnight. It’s going to take time. I think in Canada, in Winnipeg, we have challenges, but Canada is a very tolerant society.

More sharing of cultures, getting together, opening doors, breaking down barriers and creating a lot more conversation and trying to get a bigger picture understanding of everyone’s situations.

The mayor is a great leader, we’ve got a great leader at the helm right now. Not just to indigenous people, but to all, we’ve got a really great cultural mix in the city of Winnipeg and we need to create more opportunities for conversation. There’s a lot of good work that many groups are doing here in the city. These are hard conversations, a painful conversation, but conversations that need to be heard, need to occur.

I follow a lot of these stories and the situations that occurred in the article. The article did a really good job of putting the human aspect into it. And I think that’s what people need to see more, there’s a human aspect. We’re all people, we’re all humans, we all have challenges, and we just need to open our minds, and we just need to understand that it doesn’t matter where we come from, we’re all people, and we just have to have a lot of respect.

Things can always get better. I’m an optimist, I’m always hopeful. Our city is growing, growing because of immigration and we are going to have to think like a big city and reallyu look at ourselves, embrace change, and change comes in many forms. I think in Winnipeg, we also do a really good job of that. We celebrate cultures, we’ve got all kinds of religious opportunities, churches, mosques, synagogue, and we can only keep building on it. And I’m so glad to see the mayor wanting to keep building on that and leading in this direction.

It’s pretty bold for the mayor to come out and deal with this front on, and I’m so very proud that he has and I’m going to be supporting him 100% and it’s going to make for a better city. And I hope all Winnipeggers will look deep inside themselves and think about this a lot more than they maybe have in the past.

The atmosphere was really good. It was amazing. I found this amazing. We all gathered in the mayor’s office, all the people that stood behind him there, we had leaders from all types of organizations, we gathered in the mayor’s office and we had a smudge. We had a smudge, we passed it around the room, it was light. It was like we were a team. I had no idea what to expect when I walked in the door, I was one of the last people there. It was really wonderful. We had all these people in the room, we were talking, it was positive. He opened the doors, very rarely is there access to the mayor’s office, he opened the doors and everyone came out. It was a really good feeling. It was very ‘team’. A lot of people in the room I knew, but had never met personallys, so it was great to have the opportunity to meet them.

…It was a really united front. It felt really great.

I’m not saying the article was horrible, but the content was just so painful. Yet when we met in the office and I wasn’t aware who was going to be speaking or saying what, but we were just talking, it was a great feeling… I think we all have to set examples, we have to lead and I’m confident we will. I’m proud to be part of it. I’ve got three young kids and I said to them for our first holiday, we’re never going to Disney Land, we’re going to go to the Philippines, or India, but we’re going to see the real world, and we’re going to realize how big the world really is…

David Barnard, president, University of Manitoba

I was at the university and my office received a call from the mayor’s office. I hadn’t seen the article. The mayor called to say he was asking a group of people from the city to come together in solidarity against racism in the city. So I made some adjustments to my schedule and went. I hadn’t heard anything about the article until the mayor called and asked for support and for me to be part of it.

I know the mayor, he was, several years ago, president of the alumni association of the university, and from that, I was aware of his candidacy in the run-up to the election and we’ve interacted a couple of times since. He’s been very busy since he was elected, trying to provide positive leadership for the city and when he asked for support to express opposition to racism, I was certainly happy to be part of that.

I had very little time to read the article as I was rushing from the university and other commitments to the meeting with the mayor.

I think that all of us are aware that racism exists in Canada, it exists in Winnipeg, and it’s something that we don’t like. It hurts everyone: indigenous and non-indigenous. We all want to get rid of it. So when the mayor asked for support for that position, I was happy to be involved.

In my mind, there’s two aspects to the article. One is that there’s racism in Canada and in Winnipeg in particular, and there’s no argument about that. The sensationalism about Winnipeg being the worst place, I’m not sure what the justification of that might be or how that might be assessed. To me, that part isn’t nearly as significant as recognizing that there is racism and that we need to deal with it.

We’ve made bridging the gap between indigenous people in this province and non-indigenous people a priority for the university the entire time I’ve been here. And it’s been part of a strong tradition at the University of Manitoba. We have a reasonably large number of indigenous students, but it’s not representative, and we want to have more of them on campus. We realize that racism can be a problem, we have a series of talks that we call “visionary conversations” and I think two and a half years ago we had one entitled “let’s talk about racism” and talk about racism on our campus and in our city. We’re trying to work with indigenous leaders to try to build a welcoming environment on campus and to make the indigenous reality in this province a larger part of what’s visible at the University of Manitoba. The general issue of reinforcing what we were already aware of and were working on and we’re happy to work with other people in the city.

The main takeaway for me from the press conference was the readiness of leaders from different parts of the community to come together with the mayor to be openly and collectively committed to dealing with something that really matters.

The university senate and board approved a new strategic plan for the next five years entitled Taking our Place, that was approved just before Christmas and it contains as one of its major undertakings to create pathways to indigenous achievement and makes a number of commitments on behalf of the university like fostering a greater understanding of indigenous knowledges, cultures, and traditions among students, faculty and staff. Building a culturally rich and safe and supportive learning and work environment. There are several things that we’ve already committed to doing. We recognize the need to bridge the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous people in many ways in this province. The university was strongly committed before. I’m not sure if anything specifically arose out of the press conference. It was really an opportunity to declare collectively that a lot of us are committed to doing things differently.

Ultimately, I think what we would like to see is the same kinds of opportunities and outcomes–socially, economically, culturally–for indigenous and non-indigenous people in this province and in this city. To work towards that end, I think there are a number of things that need to be done: we need to recognize the history and the impact of the history between indigenous people and those who have come more recently to Canada. The university has been involved in that heavily with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that’s dealing with the aftermath of the Indian Residential School period. We are the central node in a legacy research centre, putting together that national research centre and make that history known because it has shaped the fabric of Canada in many ways that I don’t think many Canadians understood before the Commission was doing its work.

I think it’s important for us to redress the historical wrongs and to create circumstances where indigenous people have the same kinds of opportunities in their lives, for themselves and for their children, as other people in Canada. That’s a big agenda, and each institution, organization, has a clear role to play in it. There are some clear roles for universities, especially universities that are located where there are a relatively large number of indigenous people, and where a lot of the historical wrongs need to be taken into consideration as we move forward as a community. It’s important to give educational opportunities to indigenous people and to create a welcoming environment in the institutions.

I think it’s positive that people came together and were willing to stand together and collectively make this statement. I think for many of us, it was not a difficult decision because it’s consistent with things that we are already working on and committed to making better. And I think that’s true for many organizations that were represented there. I think there is a spirit of collaboration and people are working well together. Certainly the mayor I think is committed to fostering and facilitating it, and that’s a good thing.

I would overemphasize this moment. I think that things are getting better and it’s not an easy job to make them better. All citizens need to be aware of this issue and work towards making this a more mutually accepting society. But the institutions, both indigenous and non-indigenous, we’re aware that we need to keep emphasizing this. It’s a real issue for us and we need to keep making the situation better.

This is an important issue for the University of Manitoba. It’s very high on our priority list, has been for a very long time. It’s one of the areas of focus in our strategic plan as it was in the previous one and it’s good to see solidarity in the community and a collective commitment to working together to making this a better place.


 
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