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Everyone has to be involved in dismantling racism: Murray

Several events were held in Timmins to mark the International Day of Elimination of Racism and Discrimination

The need for education and action in the fight against discrimination in Timmins was addressed by speakers at an event today.

For International Day of Elimination of Racism and Discrimination (IDERD), which takes place annually on March 21, Timmins Together hosted a symposium at the Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Centre. 

The date marks the day the police in Sharpeville, South Africa, opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against apartheid laws in 1960.

The keynote speaker for the symposium was Ward Coun. and former mayor Kristin Murray. The symposium also featured a panel of people from Timmins, including international students, newcomers and long-time residents.

“Undertaking the work of dismantling racism and discrimination requires every single person to be involved in that process,” said Murray. 

She said that everyone must take steps to work against discrimination and celebrate the differences that exist in culture.

“What people don’t realize is that when someone celebrates who they are, they are not detracting from anyone or anything else,” said Murray in her speech.

“This notion of people feeling like they are losing something had nothing to do with those who are discriminated against but everything to do with the person that discriminates.”

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Estella Chow shared her experiences in coming to Timmins in the 1990s and how things have changed in the city.

“You would have the drive to work but nobody would give you a chance,” she said. “Now, we try to help people out to find a job, housing, anything that I can help, so that they won’t experience what I experienced.”

Everard Kasimanwuna, president of African Community in Timmins (ACIT) spoke about how microaggressions can add up and something as simple as mispronouncing a person’s name can leave a mark.

“If you can say Michelangelo, you can learn to say Everard,” he said. “It is something that is so important, our names are so important.”

Chow added that everyone wants their community to succeed and that gets easier when everyone works together.

“Building a community, you need to build it brick by brick,” she said. “Here you can speak up, and don’t be scared to speak up.”

First impressions can make or break a newcomer’s experience, as well, said Ifeoma Kasimanwuna, the Timmins Multicultural Centre’s local immigration partnership co-ordinator.

“I was lucky to have met good people first,” said Kasimanwuna.

She also spoke about the importance of sharing the stories of what kinds of discrimination, both overt and subtle, people face as they come to the community.

“Discussions like this are not something we are always comfortable having, but we have to have them,” she said. “Racial minorities do not have to share their stories to prove that racism exists in the community, but sometimes we find ourselves having to do that.”

The event wrapped with two readings of the book All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold, first in French, read by Mayor Michelle Boileau and then in English with Holly Buffalo Rodrique, who also shared stories about ribbon skirts, drumming, and dancing in Ojibwe culture.

Murray put it to the participants in the symposium to take the work against racism home with them.

“Although the battle against discrimination is lengthy and difficult, we must never give up,” said Murray.

Amanda Rabski-McColl, LJI Reporter

About the Author: Amanda Rabski-McColl, LJI Reporter

Amanda Rabski-McColl is a Diversity Reporter under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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