Program aims to combat racism

The Social Planning Council for the North Okanagan has received $50,000 from the B.C. government to help eliminate racism

The Social Planning Council for the North Okanagan has received $50,000 from the B.C. government to help eliminate racism in Penticton and four other Thompson-Okanagan communities.

The Social Planning Council is the host agency for the Thompson Okanagan Respect Network, and partners with local agencies like  South Okanagan Immigrant Community Services, which is hosting and promoting an anti-racism event titled Respect Lives Here.

“We’ve been involved for quite a few years,” said Angelika Eneas, Community Connections Coordinator for SOICS, noting this will be the fourth year for the event. “We got involved because we are the organization in the community that deals with the immigrant population.”

Eneas said their office hears constant concerns about racism and discrimination happening in the community.

“It happens a lot. More than maybe we would like to talk about,” she said.

Racism can take many forms, she said, from overt to subtle. Eneas said SOICS is currently helping a man who is experiencing racist comments and jokes in the workplace because of his religion.

“They are constantly making comments about him being a terrorist,” said Eneas. “It’s jokes, so a person doesn’t know how to take them. It is indirect racism and it happens a lot.”

Incidents like that is why it is important to keep having this discussion, according to Eneas.

“A rich multicultural society helps nurture inclusiveness, understanding, mutual respect and a sense of community,” Penticton MLA Dan Ashton said. “Racism comes in many forms and so do the ways to combat it, and that’s where anti-racism funding can help.”

At present, Eneas said they don’t have firm plans for the Respect Lives Here event. The first step is to get a steering committee together, to direct how the funding will be used and what we are going to put on.

“It has to be done before March 21, the International Day for the Elimination of Racism. That’s our deadline,” she said. For the March 2015 event, they created a one-act play to explore the different ways racism can be expressed.

A play will be part of the overall picture for next year’s event, though this time it will be a travelling play, visiting and tying together all the communities that are part of the Respect Network.

“The Thompson Okanagan Respect Network is extremely excited to be receiving this funding because it means we can continue to host Respect Lives Here events in local communities,” said Annette Sharkey, executive director of the Social Planning Council for the North Okanagan. “The projects are designed to engage the community, educate stakeholders and celebrate our diversity. It’s wonderful to see so many community members become involved in Respect Lives Here events.”

Respect Lives Here events will also be held in Kamloops, Vernon, Kelowna and Salmon Arm, where other local groups have partnered with the Respect Network.

For now, Eneas said she needs volunteers to join the steering committee and help brainstorm what form this year’s event should take.

Find out more at respectnetwork.ca.

 

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