South Okanagan immigration group launches racism survey | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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South Okanagan immigration group launches racism survey

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
February 01, 2021 - 5:30 PM

A South Okanagan multicultural society has launched a survey to help provide a snapshot of racism and discrimination in the community.

South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services executive director Cherry Fernandez says the society is responding to a perceived increase in racism in the region.

“We don’t have data to support what we’re hearing when it comes to discrimination and hate crimes. They are continuously underreported, but we’re hearing dialogue up and down the valley of people sharing personal stories of the racism they’ve experienced here,” Fernandez says.

Fernandez has encountered many people who feel discrimination doesn’t happen in the South Okanagan.

“Unfortunately, we live in a society that is data driven. This is our way to get a snapshot of what is happening in our community. In our interactions, we hear a lot of narratives. We need to get that snapshot,” she says.

The multicultural society is also working towards setting up an online reporting portal for those experiencing or witnessing a racial incident, in addition to providing support for counselling and the prosecution of racially motivated incidents as a hate crime.

“We want to show not only what is happening but also find out what we can do to build a more inclusive community,” Fernandez says.

She says the anecdotal evidence so far indicates racism runs across diverse groups, including people of colour and visible minorities, often due to their accents.

Fernandez says there has also been a noticeable increase in people of Asian descent being targeted since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. While not necessarily Chinese, they are being blamed for bringing the pandemic here.

“They are being blamed simply because of their Asian background, whether they were born in Canada or not,” Fernandez says.

The society's immigration partnership coordinator Elmira Galiyeva says they are ]also working on a "local respect network." The initiative would be part of a larger network called RESPECT through Resilience B.C. Anti-Racism Network.

She says they hope to bring together other South Okanagan’s organizations interested in addressing issues of racism and discrimination. The initiative would bring the RCMP, local mayors, Indigenous community members, and other individuals to the table.

“We feel we as a community need to be ready when such incidents happen, and we should have a protocol for response,” Galiyeva says.

South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services is incorporated as a not for profit organization, registered under the name Penticton & District Multicultural Society. SOICS is a one-stop shop that provides a range of free services to all immigrants, temporary foreign workers and refugees.

The society’s racism survey can be found here.

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