Alberta leaders denounce racism as Black community calls for action

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Alberta leaders denounce racism in wake of George Floyd’s death
WATCH: As protests over the death of George Floyd continue across North America, Edmonton's local black community is calling for action from politicians and the public. Breanna Karstens-Smith reports – Jun 1, 2020

After a weekend of pain and unrest across America, leaders in Alberta were speaking out against racism Monday.

“I denounce racism in any form and police brutality anywhere it occurs and we need to acknowledge that we are not perfect in Canada,” Premier Jason Kenney said when asked about his thoughts on protests across the United States.

“We always need to strive to do better in ensuring equality of all before the law.”

The issue was discussed during Question Period Monday when Opposition Leader Rachel Notley called on the government to reverse a November cut to a grant aimed at ending racism.

“We must do more than just condemn racism; we must actively fight it,” said Notley.

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson also addressed the death of George Floyd and subsequent protests.

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“I think it’s just important for Edmontonians to know that their city council and their leaders feel that pain as well and need to hear that pain and be reminded of it in these situations and recommit to our work to end racism.”

Iveson said he would be speaking at the next Edmonton Police Commission meeting about what can be done to further that work.

Advocates told Global News the words from leaders were appreciated but that more action needed to be taken.

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Nigel Williams, with The National Black Coalition of Canada Edmonton and the director of Community Engagement with Melanistic Magazine, said acknowledging racism exists in Alberta is an important first step.

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Williams says it is something he has dealt with since he was 10 years old.

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“The culture and Black culture — whether it’s the music, the food, the fashion … It has spanned the globe. People have copied and mimicked and accepted.

“But Black people themselves have had a hard time in being accepted in all aspects in life.”

He explained racism tends to be more subtle in Alberta with comments between friends or Black people being denied for loans or bank accounts despite being qualified.

There are more overt instances too.

In 2019 an Indigenous family was sent a letter telling them to move.

Racist graffiti was spray painted on the garage of a former football player in 2017.

There have been racist words painted on mosques and temples too.

“If a person tells you they are going through a racist situation, believe them. First and foremost,” advised Williams.

To show support, Williams said people should attend rallies and then donate to protesters or anti-racism groups.

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He also encouraged people to write to their MLAs.

“You’ve got to write that letter and sign the petitions and get the bills passed that allow us to put a stop to racial discrimination in all the systems.”

Finally, Williams said he wanted the Black community to know they are capable.

“For all the young Black children, you are kings and queens. You are able to do anything you want.”

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a virtual rally is planned for Tuesday in Edmonton. People can participate on the Be the Change Facebook page.

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