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Video of racist rant in Lethbridge shines spotlight on overdue anti-racism report in Alberta

Wed, May 9: A video posted to Facebook shows patrons at a Lethbridge restaurant responding to a customer yelling racist comments at two men.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story misidentified Greg Clark as the leader of the Alberta Party. In fact, he is the former leader. Global News regrets the error. 

Politicians in Alberta say there needs to be action to combat racism – and they need to come quicker – after a racist tirade at a Lethbridge restaurant was caught on camera.

The video shows a B.C. woman yelling at a group of men and telling them they aren’t Canadian, and they should “go back to your f***ing country” during an incident in April. The men, who are foreign-born Canadians, say they were shocked by woman’s actions.

READ MORE: B.C. woman fired from car dealership after racist tirade caught on camera at Lethbridge restaurant 

Greg Clark, MLA for Calgary-Elbow, called the incident “disturbing,” and says the provincial government is lagging on a report on anti-racism that could have helped.

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“That sort of vile racism has absolutely no place in our society,” Clark told reporters outside the legislature Wednesday.

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“The premier asked the minister of education to undertake a review of anti-racism activities and actions the province could take about a year and a half ago, that report was due last fall,” he continued.

“It just fell off the radar and we’ve heard nothing about it. So obviously there is action needed.”

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley appointed Education Minister David Eggen to lead a consultation on how to fight racism after the deadly mosque shooting in Quebec back in July 2017. The report was due in the fall of 2017.

READ MORE: Alberta seeks public help as it crafts new policies to combat racism (Aug. 2017)

While Clark admits that the report wouldn’t be able to stop specific acts of racism, he believes the action from the government could help curb the rise of racism in Alberta.

“It looks like racism is on the rise in this province,” he said.

“The government has an obligation to come up with a strategy.”

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For their part, NDP MLAs say the one incident isn’t indicative of the province as a whole.

“Obviously [the incident] is entirely unacceptable and doesn’t reflect the Lethbridge that I know at all,” Shannon Phillips, the NDP MLA for Lethbridge-West, said Wednesday.

“We were one of the largest recipients per capita of Syrian refugees during that crisis and we were proud to be so.”

Eggen said the report is in its final stages and is coming out “very, very soon.”

“We are consulting with hundreds of people and the key is to aim firmly at the youth and to ensure that they have the education that can overcome the ignorance that fosters racism in the first place,” Eggen explained.

“I believe that racism is a product of ignorance and so education is the antidote.”

WATCH: ‘People aren’t seeing the whole story’: Woman making racist comments in Lethbridge video speaks out

‘People aren’t seeing the whole story’: Woman making racist comments in Lethbridge video speaks out
‘People aren’t seeing the whole story’: Woman making racist comments in Lethbridge video speaks out

Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman posted on Facebook that he’s embarrassed over the incident.

“We are working hard to address racism and bigotry but can not prevent ignorance and the hostile behaviour of individuals,” Spearman wrote.

“Most Lethbridge citizens are proud of our reputation as a city that welcomes immigrants and refugees.”

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The woman in the incident, Kelly Pocha, has spoken out, saying the video is out of context, but she also regrets what she said. She has since been fired from her job at Cranbrook Dodge.

NDP Minister apologizes after comment on video

Alberta’s Minister of the Status of Women, Stephanie McLean, also apologized after appearing to defend the woman’s actions in a tweet.

The post read: “She was definitely not right and was saying horrible bigoted things. That being said – I hearing right [sic]? At the beginning of the video does the man on the left say to her ‘you ask to speak.’ Then says something about her mother?”

It has since been deleted.

She later apologized on Twitter, saying: “My tweet shouldn’t have implied there could be an excuse for the behaviour in that video. There is no excuse!”

Asked about the tweet, Eggen agreed the statements from McLean were unacceptable.

“It was entirely inappropriate certainly and I believe that she did apologize and remove the comment from social media,” he told Global News.

*With files from Phil Heidenreich and Alannah Page 

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