President David Barnard joins call to fight racism in Winnipeg
President David Barnard stood in solidarity with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal leaders today to confront systemic racism in the city of Winnipeg.
Barnard was part of a group of community leaders invited to a news conference called by Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman aimed at challenging racial divisions in this city. Bowman invited the leaders to City Hall to address a Maclean’s magazine cover story labeling Winnipeg as the nation’s most racist city.
President Barnard restated his conviction that education – and universities in particular – can play a critical role in tackling the issue of racism.
“I was at a press conference this morning with Mayor Bowman to address recent news stories drawing our attention to the very sensitive issue of racism and discrimination in our city,” Barnard said. “Racism is a problem nation-wide and not specific to Winnipeg, and it hurts everyone – Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. The elimination of racism occurs only with working, listening and communication with each other. The University of Manitoba is committed to contributing to this dialogue and working in partnership with Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities.”
The University of Manitoba recognizes the importance of incorporating Indigenous perspectives into learning, discovery and engagement programs. The new Taking our Place: University of Manitoba Strategic Plan acknowledges that without this partnership, valuable opportunities for connections and learning will be missed. “Through the sharing of Indigenous knowledge, cultures and traditions across our campuses, we will build a stronger foundation for students, staff and the wider community,” the plan states.
Also attending the news conference was Ovide Mercredi, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations and University of Manitoba alumnus, who currently serves as a senior advisor to the president.
“This is a national problem,” he said. “But there’s a lot of work to be done in Winnipeg. We’re ready for that.”
At the news conference Bowman, also an alumnus, and Winnipeg’s first mayor of Métis heritage, acknowledged the racial divide afflicting this city. He pledged to “face this head-on, as one community.”
Along with the other members of the Council of Presidents of Universities of Manitoba (COPUM), Barnard recently signed the Declaration of the Canadians For a New Partnership (CFNP), demonstrating active support for mutual respect, peaceful coexistence and equality.
“President Barnard took an important step in building a bridge to healing when he made a statement of apology on behalf of the University of Manitoba at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2011,” said Deborah Young, U of M executive lead, Indigenous achievement. “We must continue along the path of relationship-building, listening and respectful dialogue if we hope to reach a place of true reconciliation.”
Young pointed out that Indigenous achievement is woven throughout the U of M’s new strategic plan and emphasized that the university will grow richer as it incorporates traditional knowledge based upon traditional teachings.