One of the things I enjoy most as mayor is attending the many cultural events across our city, and celebrating the increasing diversity of ethnic and racial backgrounds in Kingston. I really believe that our city’s future prosperity depends on our ability to attract and welcome immigrants from all over the world. These are the human connections that enrich our community and help us towards our vision of being a leading, globally connected, 21st century city.
But to create that welcoming environment we must also be willing to confront negative words and attitudes as they arise. Last month there was a very disturbing video circulating on social media of a black woman in Kingston being victimized by racial insults. At this week’s City Council meeting, we heard from her sister about the damage and hurt these words have done to her and her family. I was reminded of stories my wife Shyla shared with me about the difficulties she faced as an Indian growing up in a small town where she was one of the only non-white students in her entire school. As a Kingstonian, I don’t want anyone to face those same difficulties here in our city.
As Mayor of Kingston, I want to state emphatically that hatred, discrimination and insults based on a person’s race are absolutely unacceptable in our city. Eliminating racism is a community wide effort and will take all of us working together. Council passed a motion reaffirming the city’s stand against racism but it’s also a call to action for the entire community to speak out when we hear a wrong word, a wrong joke or a judgment based on someone’s race.
We also need greater public awareness and education to combat racism. Towards this effort the city in partnership with several community organizations will launch a survey to collect input on how residents see and experience racism and discrimination. The responses collected will help us design an anti-discrimination and anti-racism awareness campaign for Kingston. I encourage you to visit the city website next Tuesday August 15th at www.cityofkingston.ca/city-hall/get-involved so that together we can build a community that embraces diversity.