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Survey sheds light on racism and discrimination in the North Okanagan

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August 15, 2016 - 8:00 PM

VERNON - Nearly half of those who responded to a recent multiculturalism survey said they witnessed prejudice and discrimination while living in Vernon.

The survey was conducted for the Social Planning Council of the North Okanagan to help identify incidents of racism and hate, and what supports are available for victims.

The survey found that 45 per cent of respondents witnessed prejudice and discrimination while living in the community. Of respondents aged 60 and up, only 29 per cent said they witnessed discrimination, compared to 67 per cent of 19- to 39-year-olds.

Despite the results, executive director Annette Sharkey points out there were no reports of hate crimes to the local RCMP and no requests or referrals for support in a Human Rights Tribunal to the legal advocacy program in recent years.

“What we have found is there are very few formal reports,” Sharkey says. “But we do know that racism and discrimination does exist.”

Service providers report that clients do sometimes share incidents of racism and discrimination, but do not necessarily want to pursue formal recourses, Sharkey says. She adds that in some cases people are hesitant to discuss their experiences and feel embarrassed or ashamed.

“Overall, the community agrees that there is a need for wider prevention strategies in schools, workplaces and the general community,” Sharkey says.

A hate crime is a criminal offence against a person or property where the motive is based in whole, or in part, on the victim’s race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin, gender, disability ot sexual orientation.

Victims can report hate crimes to the RCMP. Additionally, they can go to the Human Rights Tribunal.

A number of organizations in the North Okanagan also provide support to victims, Sharkey says.

The Social Planning Council has a number of initiatives underway, including a series of provincially funded anti-racism projects in the Thompson-Okanagan under the umbrella of the Respect Network.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston or call 250-309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
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