B.C. provincial government to address racism with demographic survey

Click to play video: 'B.C. boosting anti-racism survey through government grants'
B.C. boosting anti-racism survey through government grants
Fighting systemic racism within government-provided services brought representatives of the provincial government to Kelowna Thursday. They were here to announce funding grants for different community and Indigenous groups throughout B.C. with the goal of encouraging their communities to take part in an anti-racism survey. Jayden Wasney reports – Jul 13, 2023

Racist and sexist outbursts are far too familiar to Harwinder Sandhu, the MLA of Vernon -Monashee, a largely Caucasian community.

While she earned the support of voters in the 2020 election, she’s regularly visited by constituents who have complained she’s everything from too ethnic to too female for the role.

“We know these people by name. They come to our office and they say ‘she’s an immigrant’ and ‘she doesn’t look like me’ and such,” she said, referring to one incident that was particularly strange.

“And recently we had a very disturbing couple of emails.”

Click to play video: 'Vernon RCMP arrest along Highway 97'
Vernon RCMP arrest along Highway 97

One email listed racist tropes, like South Asians are buying up all of the Okanagan’s homes, pricing out longtime residents, and they’re responsible for the violence in local communities.

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“My staff that knew that racism happens, but they didn’t know the extent of how people can be so abrupt, right at your face,” she said, adding that it gets to her when she experiences it herself or when she hears about racism in the community, such as the case of the young man who had his turban torn off in Rutland.

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Racism, she said, simply hasn’t gone anywhere, but there are changes afoot. Of note, B.C., she said,  is the province with 52 women in government.

“Most of us are from diverse backgrounds, working-class mothers,” she said. “So it’s encouraging — one step at a time. ”

More change, she hopes, could be in the offing with the B.C. demographic survey, which was launched Thursday.

Click to play video: 'Six businesses lost in downtown Vernon fire'
Six businesses lost in downtown Vernon fire

Sandhu was in Kelowna on Thursday with Lisa Beare, Minister of Citizens’ Services, to launch the survey and announce funding to the 35 community organizations receiving roughly $2,500 each to take part in the province’s anti-racism survey.

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The Kelowna Community Resources Society and the Independent Living Vernon Society are among the 35 organizations to receive funding for the survey.

Beare said the survey is going to be used alongside the information that government already holds to identify systemic racism within government services.

“We’re encouraging everyone to fill out the anti-racism data survey so that we can all together tackle systemic racism,” Beare said.

It’s all part of the work that, she said, the provincial government has been doing since 2017, including bringing back the Human Rights Commissioner and plans for anti-racism legislation in the fall.

Click to play video: 'Discovery of man’s body near Vernon deemed suspicious'
Discovery of man’s body near Vernon deemed suspicious

“This data piece was promised,” Beare said. “We’re doing it and we’re going to be able to tackle it alongside our anti-racism data committee.

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“We’re going to be able to take a look at the 12 priorities that they’ve identified and begin to tackle systemic racism within government services.”

Other areas identified include education and health care, public safety and the justice system.

To engage with the survey, go to or call 1-833-376-2452.

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