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Opinion: Anti-racism forum brings out Prince George’s best - and worst

I arrived at Saturday’s forum with a heavy heart but my spirits were lifted by what I saw and heard.
Stand Against Racism sign

As most longtime online Citizen readers know, I moderate comments before they appear on the website.

But sometimes that’s not enough and every once in a while, I have to close comments entirely. For the first time in quite some time, I did that last week for a story headlined ‘Forum on the impact of racism coming to Prince George.’

The majority of the comments that came in complained that they were tired about hearing about racism, that they were tired of hearing about people of colour complaining about racism, and/or that they thought this was just another gathering of people of colour to plot against white people.

That’s the polite summary. Posting what was actually sent would have likely led to the opening of an RCMP investigation into whether the Citizen had violated Canada’s hate speech laws, which I, publisher Curtis Armstrong and the Citizen’s new owner Cameron Stolz would have been held legally responsible for far more than the people actually making the comments.

I arrived at Saturday’s forum (full disclosure: I moderated a similar forum for the Immigrant and Multicultural Services Society (IMSS) in 2020) with a heavy heart but my spirits were lifted by what I saw and heard.

About 150 attended to celebrate (it was Chinese New Year, after all) the fantastic progress that has been made in Prince George, in B.C., and in Canada. As Mayor Simon Yu proudly pointed out, 100 years ago the Chinese Exclusion Act was Canadian law and now a Chinese man was the mayor of Prince George.

More work needs to be done, of course, (my own experience last week clearly shows that) but there was no public discussion about white oppression, white responsibility, or white guilt, itself a stereotypical racist belief that that’s all people of colour ever talk about.

The sad irony is that too many white people spend too much time talking about how it’s “they” that are racist against white people, it’s “they” that don’t love Canada and Canadians, it’s “they” that feel they are entitled to more than their fair share.

There are real and imagined reasons behind that fear and anger, which can’t be discounted (and have been discussed extensively elsewhere) but I digress.

Saturday’s conversation showcased Prince George (and humanity) at its very best.

Nothing but good comes from a peaceful gathering when we optimistically and respectfully discuss how we – whoever we are, whatever colour of our skin and wherever we came from - can all work together to make Prince George a better place to live for everyone, from the Lheidli T’enneh people, the original inhabitants of this land, to longtime settlers to the newest arrivals from Ukraine or wherever in Canada and the rest of the world.

Seriously, why would anyone be against that?

Neil Godbout is the editor-in-chief of the Prince George Citizen