Head of Fredericton's anti-racism task force brings own experience to job

·4 min read
Mayor Kate Rogers is pictured here with two members of the city's anti-racism task force, Prashamsa G.C., left, who is task force secretary, and Passionate Ncube, the chair.  (City of Fredericton - image credit)
Mayor Kate Rogers is pictured here with two members of the city's anti-racism task force, Prashamsa G.C., left, who is task force secretary, and Passionate Ncube, the chair. (City of Fredericton - image credit)

Passionate Ncube, who arrived in New Brunswick three years ago from Zimbabwe, says his experience working with NGOs motivated him to volunteer for Fredericton's new anti-racism task force.

"I've met people .... from all over the world," said Ncube, who was chosen by fellow task force members to chair the group. "It's that moment when you are housed together with those people, all waking together, then you start realizing, there are different cultural practices or approaches that we have toward life."

This week, the City of Fredericton announced the members of the task force set up to combat systemic racism and help make the community more inclusive and diverse. Its creation follows city council's vote last August to join the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's Coalition of Inclusive Municipalities initiative.

WATCH | Head of Fredericton's anti-racism task force talks about his lived experience: 

Ncube said his experience as a program co-ordinator for NGOs helped him develop a broad understanding of the world as a global citizen.

"I've had to travel to a few countries around the world and as a Black person, I've experienced racism … and when I see that, I was like, 'What drove that person to say that to me?'… There's still a lot of work that still needs to be done."

Ncube said life in Fredericton was a difficult adjustment, especially since he immigrated at the height of the pandemic. The biggest challenge was finding employment at a time when the world was shut down.

But Ncube was able to find work with the University of New Brunswick and has dedicated his time to multiple international faith-based charitable organizations in the city.

While recommendations to council are still being discussed, Ncube said community engagement is a vital part of knowing how to address racism. Ncube pointed to the north side neighbourhood of Doone Street, where newcomers have reported physical and verbal violence.

"Those are the things that we need to take immediate action on," he said. "We engage the people. ... Has there been any changes? Has those issues been addressed? What we will try to work on is push for accountability."

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Not everyone faces racism, Ncube said, but the framing of the issue must move beyond a debate over whether it exists.

"If I experience racism, the question that you must ask yourself immediately is, 'What can I do about it?' So each and every one must be involved."

This view was echoed by another member of the new task force, Sarah Rose, board president of the Under One Sky Friendship Centre.

As a member of of Sitansisk, or St. Mary's First Nation, Rose said she chose volunteered for the task force role because of the First Nation's relationship with the city.

"I don't think that people really think racism exists, so this is a way for all of us to get together and talk about shared experiences, but also look at ways of helping — I don't want to say solve racism, that's idealistic —  but once you're aware of something, then you can work toward solutions to fighting the problem that we have."

Rose said she's been involved in various organizations and with First Nations politics for a long time and began having to deal with racism as a child.

"But dealing with it as a parent is harder," she said. "I would like for this city to be a safe place for my children to grow and develop."

When task members first met, Rose realized the racism experienced by most individuals can differ greatly. Specifically, she said, Indigenous people still face the racism that has become systemic since colonialism.

"When immigrants are coming to Canada, what are they learning about Indigenous people? What programs and services offer that basic knowledge of the land and territory that they're going to be living on?"

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Ross said that addressing systemic racism involves looking at how different systems of governance impact a variety of communities.

"We might have a little bit of difficulty because, say, you talk about systemic racism in the school system, rather than a city issue. That's a provincial issue," she said. "It's depending on where the jurisdiction is that can actually solve the problem.

"So with the the city having this committee and having all these issues and possibly solutions, would the provincial and federal governments be interested?"

Last week, six chiefs of the Wolastoqey Nation renewed their call for a Indigenous-led inquiry into systemic racism, a step the Blaine Higgs government has consistently rejected.

The Fredericton task force will carry out its work until Dec. 31, 2023.

Other members of the task force include: Renni Thomas, Prashamsa G.C., Jenn Wambolt, Christofer Balram, Derek Solomon, Felix Ndayi, Madhu Varma, Yusuf Shire, David Olara, Marilyn Kaufman, Timothy Li,  Ruth Breen and Graham Nickerson.

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