Yukoners tackle systemic racism in the territory and discuss how to address it

·3 min read

As part of the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition's Poverty and Homelessness Action Week, we put together a panel to talk about the issue of systemic racism in the territory and how it can be addressed. The panelists are Paige Galette, Kluane Adamek and Christopher Tse. The answers have been edited for brevity.

How do you define systemic racism?

KA: It really speaks to, largely, how society works, how it becomes what we know as normal, as a normal practice that takes place within a society or a group or an organization … It also has become a way for seemingly good people to really play into the system. Good people that are unaware, good people that just don't know, good people that said something they shouldn't have. We need to call that systemic racism.

Nathan Smith
Nathan Smith

PG: For me, it's racism that keeps going and going and going, and that is entrenched in the systems we use, in education, in the justice system, in the workplace, in family dynamics. It's pretty much everywhere.

Why are we talking about it more now?

KA: We're in a racial revolution, not only in this country but around the world. I want to acknowledge Black Lives Matter, and how important it is that we really, truly, open our eyes and our hearts and our minds to seeing and hearing and understanding what's really happening in this world. Here in the Yukon people would say things are pretty good, people feel pretty safe and pretty comfortable here, but to me that's a lot of rhetoric.

CT: I would argue that the racial revolution has been happening for centuries. We need to ask ourselves why it is at the forefront when racial solidarity and anti-racism activism is trending all of a sudden. I don't think you'll find Black organizers or Indigenous organizers or other racialized organizers who have been doing this work since time say this is new to them. The struggle against white supremacy and the struggle to dismantle racist structures in our society is not a new fight. All of a sudden, white people seem to care.

Mia Val
Mia Val

How is systemic racism reflecting in poverty and housing issues?

PG: We need to talk about neighbourhood watch. I love the concept of neighbourhood watch and neighbourhood security. Often, when I'm talking to people about it, I ask whose security are we talking about? We've seen examples like Colten Boushie, or even here in Whitehorse, where there's a lot of NIMBYism, there's a lot of 'not in my backyard' with the goal of protecting one's property, without understanding the concept that that property wasn't theirs to protect in the first place.

Any final thoughts?

KA: It's really young people who are pressing for this change. We need to get uncomfortable, we need to listen. As a dear friend Sean Atleo said to me, 'There's a hard way, or the harder way.' It's going to be hard to make those changes, but it's going to be harder the longer we wait … Be open and vulnerable to changing the way you think about things, and speaking up and speaking out, because that's the only way we are going to see change.

CT: We are on stolen land, and far be it from us to do anti-racist organizing or anti-racist work without recognizing that Indigenous people need to be at the forefront of that … Anti-racist work needs to take place within decolonization, because at the same time as anti-racist work benefits everyone, including white people, so does decolonization.

PG: Don't wait for our causes to be trending for you to educate yourself and put in concrete actions. Don't wait to be called out, be proactive … Just because you're living somewhere doesn't mean you can't educate yourself on the history of where you're living. Make sure it's a safe and communal dwelling for everybody, including your friends, your colleagues, your sisters, your brothers, your family, even your bosses.