“Am I racist?” signs like the one standing on the west end of Salmon Arm are part of an anti-racism campaign launched in November 2020 by B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner. Hate crimes have been rising in B.C., particularly during the pandemic. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)

“Am I racist?” signs like the one standing on the west end of Salmon Arm are part of an anti-racism campaign launched in November 2020 by B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner. Hate crimes have been rising in B.C., particularly during the pandemic. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)

‘Am I racist?’ sign in Shuswap part of B.C. campaign to combat racism

As hate crimes rise, Office of Human Rights Commissioner would like citizens to examine inner biases

A sign next to the Trans-Canada Highway at the west end of Salmon Arm asks, “Am I racist?”

With hate crimes rising in B.C., particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, the Salmon Arm sign and ones like it in other B.C. municipalities are part of a public awareness campaign launched by B.C.’s Office of the Human Rights Commissioner.

The campaign takes British Columbians through the first steps toward a more anti-racist B.C. by asking them to examine their inner biases, states a news release from the human rights commissioner’s office.

Along with billboards, the signs can be seen on transit shelters and the backs of buses in B.C. Updates to the campaign include more specific questions about what constitutes racism. One sign asks: “If I say I don’t see skin colour, am I racist?” Another question is: “If I want to forget our province’s history, am I racist?”

An interactive website can be found at bchumanrights.ca/BeAntiRacist, designed to help British Columbians look deeper at the issues that divide citizens.

“Systemic racism is a difficult and urgent problem in B.C.,” said Human Rights Commissioner Kasari Govender. “Statistics show a rise in hate crimes in B.C., both gradually over the last decade and rapidly since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the province. We need to name the problem before we can solve it, and that starts when we confront our own, often subconscious, racial biases.”

Govender said if people have different views of the campaign, it’s hoped that will generate conversations about the value in recognizing racism and what a difference that might make in people’s lives.

Read more: VIDEO: ‘Am I racist?’ campaign asks British Columbians to confront their unconscious biases

Read more: Asian celebs work to combat racist attacks amid pandemic

Read more: B.C.’s first independent human rights commissioner sworn in

Read more: Shuswap residents encouraged to write letter for human rights

Reported hate crimes in B.C. rose more than 34 per cent between 2015 and 2018. In the first nine months of 2020, the Vancouver Police Department, for instance, reported a 116 per cent rise in hate crimes in Metro Vancouver compared to the same period in 2019, with Asian communities bearing the brunt of the increase. Anti-Asian hate crime incidents increased from just nine reported in B.C. in 2019 to 88 reported in the 2020 period, an 878 per cent increase.

Along with individual racism, structural racism in health care and other institutions, including the disproportionate impact COVID-19 is having on health in racialized B.C. communities, is raising concerns.

A Statistics Canada report found COVID-19 mortality rates between March and July 2020 were higher in B.C. communities where more than 25 per cent of residents are visible minorities, Govender said.

“Canada has a reputation of being a safe place with minimal racism, but this does not truly reflect the history and present-day experiences of Indigenous and racialized people in this province and country. I know it’s uncomfortable to recognize this racism and to start to work on it, but it’s crucial that we do so – because uprooting systemic racism starts when we change ourselves.”

The campaign will continue until Dec. 11. To learn more, visit bchumanrights.ca/BeAntiRacist or follow the hashtag #BeAntiRacistBC on Twitter or Instagram.

The Office of the Human Rights Commissioner began its work in September 2019 with a mandate to educate the province on issues of systemic racism, following the 17-year absence of a provincial human rights commission.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

#Salmon Armracism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Canadian poet Wali Shah, former NHL’er Corey Hirsch, author, activist and empowerment coach Ashley Bendiksen, and successful Salmon Arm entrepreneur Missy MacKintosh are among the guest speakers participating in the Shuswap Youth Launch event on Thursday, Feb. 25. (Shuswap Youth Launch image)
Shuswap youth excited to launch inspiring virtual event

Corey Hirsch, Wali Shah, Missy MacKintosh among guest speakers

A logging truck spilled its load on Squilax-Anglemont Road after failing to negotiate a shard corner on Jan. 19. (Google Maps image)
Logging truck loses load, blocks traffic in North Shuswap

Jan. 19 incident on Squilax-Anglemont Road obstructed traffic for several hours

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

Home Owner Grant applications will no longer be done through the City of Salmon Arm's property tax notices. (File photo)
City of Salmon Arm no longer handling Home Owner Grant applications

B.C. government to open to new online system for grant applications

The Greater Vernon Ringette Association is one of six Vernon sports groups benefitting from B.C.’s Local Sport Relief Fund. (Morning Star file photo)
Relief funds keep Okanagan in the game

Clubs at risk of closure due to inability to offer programs and fundraise

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Kevin Lee Barrett is charged with attempted murder and aggravated assault. (Facebook)
Court hears of victim’s injuries in West Kelowna attempted murder trial

Two-week-long trial continues for Kevin Barrett, accused of trying to kill mother in West Kelowna

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Disgraced Kelowna social worker faces another class-action lawsuit

Zackary Alphonse claims he was not informed of resources available to him upon leaving government care

A mother hold hands with her daughter while sharing about her struggles with addiction during Overdose Awareness Day. (Jesse Major/Black Press file)
Overdose and suicide support group starts in Penticton

Penticton was one of the province’s communities hardest hit by the overdose crisis in 2020

The steel mills in the Hamilton waterfront harbour are shown in Hamilton, Ont., on Tuesday, October 23, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Dyer: Stay the course on Carbon pricing

Kristy Dyer has a background in art and physics and consulted for Silicon Valley

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Voting is the number one, bare minimum way to have your voice heard by government. (File photo)
Jocelyn’s Jottings: Want to make change? Here are some suggestions

As a citizen you have a voice, you just have to know who to talk to

Most Read