Alberta cancels decades-old grant for anti-racism initiatives

Part of overall cuts, although Jason Kenney was sceptical of these kinds of grants when federal minister (not without reason):

A grant that helped fund anti-racism and anti-discrimination programs for decades in Alberta has been eliminated under the budget cuts of the United Conservative government.

The Alberta Human Rights Commission’s Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund, valued at $1 million per year, has been dissolved, according to Cam Stewart, the Commission’s manager of communications. The grant, he said, has existed in some form or another since 1988.

Stewart said the grant has helped fund initiatives and projects across the province that dealt with education and raising awareness about discrimination, racism, and issues marginalized communities face in Alberta. For example, the grant has helped fund the Alberta Hate Crimes Committee, which has been working since 2002 to develop resources and best practices that address hate-motivated crimes in Alberta.

Star Edmonton reached out to the office of Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice, for comment on the cancellation of this grant, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

According to Statistics Canada, the number of reported hate crimes has risen in both Edmonton and Calgary from 2016 to 2018. Both cities saw a combined total of 149 hate crime incidents in 2018, up from 103 in 2016 — a 45 per cent increase.

With the rise of reported hate crime incidents in Alberta and Canada as a whole, Irfan Chaudhry, Director of MacEwan University’s Office of Human Rights and Equity, said an appetite for education and awareness in Alberta has been increasing, and many of those education programs are funded by the Multiculturalism Grants program.

“There’s still a lot of division that us as Canadians maybe haven’t acknowledged, and these types of programs at least provide the space for targeted approaches for these conversations to happen,” Chaudhry said.

The grant helped fund one of Chaudhry’s projects — a podcast out of MacEwan University that was geared towards exploring narratives of hate and counter-hate in Alberta, and opening up honest conversations about these issues. He said he was hoping to tap into the grant’s funding for similar projects in the future as well.

“Because the grant is gone, there isn’t a comparable funding stream available locally, and that’s definitely going to impact future variations of projects like this,” Chaudhry said.

Stewart said the grant not only helped fund educational initiatives about racism and discrimination on a smaller scale, but also on a more systemic scale. The grant, for example, helped fund training programs on harassment and bullying in the workplace for human resources professionals, and sensitivity training for nurses about discrimination against Indigenous people in the healthcare system.

“(These projects) empowered people to address issues so they could fully participate in society without discrimination,” Stewart said.

Both Chaudhry and Helen Rusich, a program manager at REACH Edmonton who has worked on various anti-discrimination initatives in the city, expressed concerns on what the cancellation of this grant would mean as hate crimes become a more prevalent issue in society.

Rusich, who most recently worked on the Coalitions Creating Equity under the grant’s funding to develop educational material on hate crimes and hate incidents, called the government’s decision to cancel the grant “shortsighted.” She said it will be detrimental to the province in the long-run if issues of hate and racism against marginalized communities go unaddressed.

“Mosques are attacked, synagogues are attacked,” Rusich said. “I think the cost is huge, not just the emotional cost but the economic cost as well.”

Chaudhry said the funding cut also sends a message that the new government doesn’t consider racism and discrimination in the province to be an important issue that needs to be addressed.

“Collectively, this sends a strong message in terms of where priorities are for addressing racial discrimination in our province,” Chaudhry said. “It’s not looking good.”

According to Stewart, no other grant funding exists on a provincial that is aimed specifically at tackling issues of racism and discrimination in Alberta. The only funding available would now be through the Federal government, but Choudhry said those programs are not as localized, and exist on a much larger scope.

Get more of today’s top stories in your inbox
Get up to speed on everything happening in Edmonton with our Morning Headlines newsletter.

Stewart said the Alberta Human Rights Commission is now looking for other means of funding to honour grant commitments they have already made, as well as to support future projects. Rusich said REACH Edmonton is now exploring either municipal or provincial funding to continue the work of Coalitions Creating Equity across the province.

“We will continue to do this work because it is so necessary,” Rusich said.

Source: Alberta cancels decades-old grant for anti-racism initiatives

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: