Albertans launch Dignity Forum in response to increase in racism, hatred

Of note. Will be interesting to see how effective its work is:
A new forum is working to give Alberta Human Rights Commission a fresh platform to stand on by elevating the importance of human rights progression through collaboration.
Officially launching May 25, the Dignity Forum was founded out of deep concern for the increase in discrimination and prejudice faced by racialized groups in Alberta.

Founded by former Alberta MLA and senator Ron Ghitter, the Dignity Forum brings together key stakeholders from human rights groups to speak with one voice to combat the systemic issues of intolerance, harassment, and discrimination in Alberta.

Ghitter has been involved with the development of human rights policies over the past 45 years, and was awarded the Alberta Human Rights Award in 1990.

The commission was once a leader in human rights protection in Canada, Ghitter said, but funding cuts, low profile and lack of political support have diminished the judicial body’s impact on legislation, community outreach and education.

The plan for the forum is to elevate human rights conversations in the province through advocacy, collaboration and education systems, he said.“The commission used to be the engine that brings the people together in the province. Instead, they operate in isolation,” Ghitter said.

“The resources that they’re given are really only enough to allow them to deal with the enforcement side. But you can’t force someone to love thy neighbour.”

In 2019, the UCP government cut the commission’s $1 million annual Human Rights and Multiculturalism Grants program, which was aimed at fighting racism and promoting human rights and equality through community projects.

The cuts came before the COVID-19 pandemic, when communities across Canada saw an increase in hate-motivated incidents, particularly against Asian communities.

Hate crimes reported to Calgary police have risen almost 60 per cent in three years, from 165 files in 2019 to 388 in 2021.

“I’ve never seen before the elements of racism and bullying, assaults on the streets and guards in mosques and synagogues. We decided we needed a different approach in dealing with the issue.”

A call to action posted to the organization’s website outlines recommendations to better equip the commission, including sustainable funding and shifting reporting responsibilities to the Alberta legislative assembly instead of Alberta’s justice minister.

The Dignity Forum is made up of a board of directors and an advisory council with expertise from a variety of different backgrounds, from legal to immigrant and Indigenous voices. Ghitter said he believes this collaborative approach will make a difference in the province.

“You get a number of groups together, and they became the one voice that is more persuasive in the community and government for change,” he said. “We need to have a stronger message to really get out and explain to Albertans just the dangers that we’re falling into.”

Source: Albertans launch Dignity Forum in response to increase in racism, hatred

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.

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