When Lia Bishop’s pride flag was cut up, she knew exactly what to do. She reported the incident to police, contacted local news stations, and notified the Fraser Valley Human Dignity Coalition (FVHDC) program. As a former FVHDC employee, she was aware of her options, but current staff know there are many acts of discrimination and racism going unreported.
In one of the latest examples, a video of a woman berating staff for not speaking English in a Burnaby store recently went viral but at press time the police had not been notified. “We typically get one or two formal reports a month, but we know that this is just scratching the surface,” explains program supervisor Alison Gutrath. “Whether it’s fear, lack of awareness or not understanding the importance of reporting, we are receiving limited data to work with and to use to guide awareness, policies and education efforts. Every situation is unique; sometimes we’ll recommend they file a police report, or refer them to counselling or see if we can bring the incident up the chain at their work or school. Our job is to support the victim and work towards a resolution that is right for them. “
The FVHDC program is an Archway program, funded by the province of BC through an Organizing Against Racism and Hate (OARH) grant. The OARH was established in 2001 to support a coordinated community approach to counter racism and hate activity in B.C. Every three months, representatives from community stakeholders, like the Abbotsford Police Department, Abbotsford School District, University of the Fraser Valley and multiple others attend an open meeting. There, they listen to incident reports and discuss possible next steps, dialogue on social justice issues in the community and listen to presentations from different groups. They also work collaboratively to design programs, projects and events to promote inclusion and harmony in our community.
Fiona McDonald, Political Science Department Head at UFV, values the importance of the FVHDC, “it’s a grassroots group that brings people together for the good of the community by offering a safe and supportive place to report, discuss, and respond to discrimination.”
If you were the victim or a bystander during an incident, please contact the FVHDC at firstname.lastname@example.org or 604-859-7681 local 270. Reporting is confidential and will not be shared without permission. The next public meeting will be held on Tuesday, November 26 at 6:00pm, and you can RSVP online.