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UCP axes long-time funding program for anti-racism initiatives

UCP axes grant run by Alberta Human Rights Commission
WATCH: The province's belt-tightening budget is cutting a grant run by the Alberta Human Rights Commission worth $1 million. Recipients who used that money for anti-racism programs say the impact will be huge. Julia Wong reports.

A grant aimed at fighting racism and promoting human rights and equality has been cut by Alberta’s UCP government.

The move to axe the Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund was made in the recent provincial budget and comes at a time when police-reported hate crimes are on the rise in Alberta.

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In 2016, numbers from Statistics Canada showed there were 139 hate crimes in the province. The following year, there were 192 incidents.

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The funding is distributed by the Human Rights Commission and has been since 1988. Roughly $1 million had been given out annually through the program.

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Past recipients include organizations, such as the John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights, and municipalities, such as the City of St. Albert and the Town of Vermilion.

Irfan Chaudhry, director of the Office of Human Rights, Diversity and Equity at MacEwan University, relied on the program to establish a podcast exploring the topic of hate as well as develop www.stophate.ca, a website dedicated to documenting hate incidents in the province.

#StopHateAB website tracks hate-related incidents in Alberta
#StopHateAB website tracks hate-related incidents in Alberta

Other programs, panels and initiatives on campus to promote inclusion and equity also depended on the grant.

“When you rely on grants to do some of these unique and cool projects, you are able to provide really cool learning opportunities for your students. Moving down the road, that’s definitely going to impact us here,” he said.

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Chaudhry said, as a result of the funding loss, he plans to scale back the number of programs he offers and search for other funding from different levels of government.

However, he said there is a clear message being sent by the provincial government.

“There are other things that are more top-of-mind. Cutting funds like this does maybe show there isn’t an interest in continuing this type of work,” he said.

The Human Rights Commission declined an interview request but sent a letter to stakeholders sharing the news about the funding cut that reads, in part:

“You have worked to advance human rights and the principles of equality, multiculturalism and inclusion in Alberta. The impact on communities for positive change has been immeasurable.”

Jonah Mozeson, spokesperson for Alberta Justice, said the Human Rights Commission “will continue to do [its] valuable work, focusing on improving services and time to resolution.”

“Our government was elected on a mandate to get our finances in order and show fiscal restraint, and as such, a grant for things like podcasts was deprioritized.“

Mozeson said the province is planning to set up a new grant stream to support multiculturalism and inclusion.

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Hate crimes on the rise in Canada, biggest leap in Alberta
Hate crimes on the rise in Canada, biggest leap in Alberta