SURREY (NEWS 1130) — As calls grow for Surrey to address systemic racism, one councillor says he doesn’t see this as an issue at the municipal level.
Surrey has yet to take an official stance on racism, and an online petition calling for such has sparked artists slated to perform at the city’s virtual Canada Day parade to drop out.
Coun. Jack Hundial says any large organization will have its issues, but doesn’t see a systemic problem in the city.
“I don’t see it as being a systemic issue within the city of Surrey, certainly not one that is as diverse as this,” he says.
He argues Surrey is inclusive, noting it has the largest urban-Indigenous population in the Lower Mainland.
“It’s a diverse community and we embrace diversity here.”
Hundial says he disagrees Surrey is systemically racist, but agrees there is room for improvement.
“The city is quite old,” he says. “To go back historically there’s absolutely going to be societal issues at that time here. Today, compared to that, I think it’s grown and developed as the country has matured itself.”
Four bands have already pulled out of the Canada Day event, citing the need for Surrey to denounce racism. Mother Mother, The Beaches, Said The Whale, and Daniel Wesley all posted to social media saying they won’t perform in the online celebration.
They’ve spoken out in support of the petition for Surrey to acknowledge anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism exists and calls for the city to commit to dismantling systemic racism. By Thursday afternoon more than 3,500 people signed the petition.
Hundial admits he hasn’t gone through the petition yet.
In a statement Thursday afternoon, Mayor Doug McCallum says there is no place for racism, discrimination, or intolerance in Surrey and the city is built on diversity.
“The pride we place in our cultural diversity and the inclusion and respect we show to one another did not just materialize overnight. We do not take this for granted and we are constantly looking at how we can strengthen the diverse and inclusive society we have in Surrey.”
However, McCallum also acknowledges there is work that needs to be done.
“Despite the gains we have made, racism against Black, Indigenous, Asian and people of all creeds, colour and sexual orientation has not been eradicated. I can assure you that we will continue to condemn and eliminate all acts of hate and discrimination in our city.”
Earlier in the day, a report of out Surrey highlights how often Indigenous people face discrimination in the city. The report found anti-Indigenous racism is woven into the fabric of Canadian society, and that we all have to take a critical and uncomfortable look at the systems that allow it to exist.
-With files from Martin MacMahon