Island organizations receive funding boost for anti-racism work

The province is providing more than $370,000 in funding for anti-racism initiatives to organizations across the province, including several on the Island.

The funding, part of a $2.9-million investment in anti-racism work, is designed to address a recent increase in racism, particularly anti-Asian and anti-Indigenous hate reported during the pandemic.

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Reports of anti-Asian racism have been on the rise, with Vancouver police recording a 700 per cent jump in anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020. In January, Cowichan Tribes members reported being refused service by some local businesses after an outbreak of COVID-19 on the reserve.

The Community Justice Centre in the Comox Valley will receive $5,000 to continue its work supporting individuals or groups who experience racism, homophobia, transphobia and hate.

The centre can help people file a police complaint about an incident, connect them to local services that provide counselling or work on a restorative-justice approach by engaging the person responsible for an incident, said Bruce Curtis, chief administrator of the justice centre.

“This is vital work and it has to continue all the time, over long periods of time,” he said. “You can’t stamp out racism with a single act or a single action or a single public-education program. The only way racism will be halted in our communities is through the ongoing public education and working to change attitudes.”

The centre responds to everything from racist graffiti to online hate and incidents where individuals are subjected to racial slurs.

Curtis said the need for the service often increases in response to high-profile incidents around the world. Two BIPOC individuals reported incidents in the months following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year, he said.

The Inter-Cultural Association of Greater Victoria will receive $20,000 in provincial funding to support the development of a similar program.

The association is working to create a protocol to respond to individual experiences of racism that’s expected to be finalized this summer, said Meghan Mergaert, director of impact and innovation for the group.

“That means that when there are incidents of racism, there’s a clear line and call to action and steps in terms of how does the community respond to that,” she said.

Other Island organizations receiving funding include the Multicultural and Immigrant Services Association of North Vancouver Island, the Cowichan Valley Intercultural & Immigrant Society, the Literacy Alberni Society and Liminal Spaces Consulting serving Nanaimo and Ladysmith.

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