Like many communities, racism can be an issue in Portage la Prairie as much as in other parts of the country. The community recently proclaimed the week of June 10 Anti-Racism Awareness Week. Mitch Tilk is with Portage Local Immigration Partnership and says the city's always been a great partner with them in terms of efforts against racism, and efforts must continue forward. This week also saw the City of Portage la Prairie make an Apology to the Dakota people at Dakota Plains First Nation.

"We couldn't be more proud of that. The library's put together an Anti-Racist reading list for people of all sorts of ages. They also hosted a free showing of the movie, Remember the Titans. Flags were raised at PCI and included Treaty One. Racism is a thing that affects a lot of newcomers in our community. There's obviously a long history of racism towards Indigenous people. So, it's really just about educating people. The flavour of a lot of our events are about getting people together. We want people to come out and experience different cultures, get together with people from different nations and cultural groups."

He explains studies have shown that the more people who are interacting and crossing over those lines, the more realization occurs that a lot of these divisions are self-imposed, and we are much more alike than we are different in a lot of ways.

"We couldn't have more in common with each other in terms of what we all want from our community, and what we want our community to do for us in the future. We're here together and how can we make a better future for all of us?"

anti racismAnti-Racism Awareness Week proclamation

He says there is a large problem with systemic racism which are racist practices that have been built into systems that we all operate through.

"You can tell when that's happening based on the outcomes that these systems are presenting us with," says Tilk. "If there is a difference in how an indigenous person and a non-indigenous person goes through the school system, that shows that there may be some issues in there still. The idea that there are any differences between an Indigenous person and not an Indigenous person is made up by society. If there are outcomes that are along those lines that must also be made up by Society, you these are not inherent biological traits."

Tilk says improvements are seen on some levels, but not on others. 

"It's going to take a lot of pushing to get people in positions of power to really take a look at how different experiences people may be going through these systems. It isn't really a one-size-fits-all approach in terms of the things that have been set up a hundred years ago. We just take for granted that that's how it's a normal to operate. But we need to reevaluate some of those things. It wasn't set up for the wrong reasons. There are lots of different outcomes in the healthcare sector along racial lines. Take a look at the makeup of elected positions."

He notes we now have an Indigenous Premier, but that took a very long time. 

"It's present in kind of every aspect of people's lives when they interact with systems and those systems are spitting out different outcomes based along racial lines. It's time to analyze where that's happening and figure out why. In terms of specifics it is such a hard thing to really nail down. You do need the data of show that there are different outcomes based on something that is being made up by society."