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article imageIs Winnipeg really the racist city Maclean's says it is?

By Karen Graham     Jan 23, 2015 in World
Winnipeg - The mayor of Winnipeg fought back tears at a press conference on Thursday, the same day Maclean's magazine published "Welcome to Winnipeg: Where Canada's racism problem is at its worst."
Mayor Brian Bowman is Winnipeg's first indigenous mayor, and, at his swearing-in ceremony on Thursday, the first Mayor to credit the city's founding on the traditional homeland of the Metis Nation, descendants of indigenous people and European settlers. Fighting the tears welling in his eyes, Mayor Bowman said, "Ignorance, hatred, intolerance, racism exist everywhere."
"Winnipeg has a responsibility right now to turn this ship around and change the way we all relate - aboriginal and non-aboriginal, Canadians alike from coast to coast to coast. … To do so, we have to shine a light on the problem we do have in Winnipeg, and the problem we share with communities across this nation, because without the light, we can't see what we're fighting," said Bowman.
Winnipeg. the capital and largest city in the province of Manitoba, Canada has long been known as the "Gateway to the West." Its name comes from the Western Cree word, meaning "muddy waters." A trading center for Aboriginal peoples long before Europeans ever set foot in Canada, today, out of a population of over 664,000 people in the city, fully 17 percent are First Nation people.
For years, the Gateway to the West has been known as a friendly prairie city, with friendly people driving vehicles with license plates bearing the words, "Friendly Manitoba." But Macleans says last fall, a darker and seamier side of Winnipeg was exposed in the death of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, who was brutalized, murdered and later found in the Red River on August 17, last year. The CBC on Sept. 25 reported that the police and Children's Family Services had failed the child.
Many indigenous activists say Tina Fontaine's death marked a turning point in race relations in Winnipeg. Like many American cities today, where there are disparities among minority people and whites, Winnipeg apparently is having the same disconnect in their race relations. The only difference is that instead of Blacks, Latinos or other minorities, Winnipeg is faced with an increasing number of First Nation peoples.
Macleans author Nancy Macdonald cited Facebook comments to make her case for racial disparities in Winnipeg. "Oh Goddd how long are aboriginal people going to use what happened as a crutch to suck more money out of Canadians?' wrote teacher Brad Badiuk on Facebook. He has of course, been suspended, without pay for his remarks.
The teacher's comments came to light on the same day 16-year old Rinelle Harper, left for dead on the banks of the Assiniboine River after being sexually assaulted, spoke about the incident for the first time. In a video aired on the Globe and Mail, she asked for an official inquiry into why so many indigenous girls and women are being murdered in Winnipeg and Canada.
Strangely enough, Winnipeg is apparently not alone in having a cauldron of racism bubbling just beneath the surface, if you believe Maclean's article. The story cites polls, not one, but a number of them showing Manitoba and Saskatchewan reporting the highest levels of racism in the country. Manitoba and Saskatchewan also have the highest number of racial incidents in the country, as reported by the Association for Canadian Studies and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.
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