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a diverse group of people

Paulette* has four especially vivid memories of experiencing racism and has flashbacks anytime there’s a traumatic event being reported. There was no escaping news of racism as the Black Lives Matter movement started gaining traction in May 2020 and the flashbacks were becoming a regular occurrence. 

She sought help through the Archway Diversity Education program. In addition to providing workshops and consulting on policy, the program takes reports and supports victims of racism and discrimination.

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in incident reports of racism and discrimination. With the Black Lives Matter movement and more people being vocal, individuals were searching for how to make those reports. Within a month, we saw the same number of reports that we would have had in an entire year,” said Alison Gutrath, the supervisor of the Archway Diversity Education program at the time of writing this article. 

Not all the incidents had happened that month but like Paulette, there were somewhere a person was feeling retraumatized. Diversity Education has stayed busy with people wanting to share their stories and community members wondering how they could support victims moving forward.  

Some clients wanted referrals to the BC Human Rights Clinic before filing a complaint with Tribunal Court, while others wanted to alert an organization or employer of what had happened in their business. And others just wanted to know that there were some like-minded folks, especially if it happened in the community. 

“It’s difficult to get the community aware that you can report such incidents. We’ll get more people making reports if we do a press release, but that awareness only last so long,” Alison said. 

Reports are shared anonymously with the Fraser Valley Human Dignity Coalition which gives members a window into issues affecting marginalized groups. The reports provide data to enable staff and the coalition to continue advocating for remedies in collaboration with government officials.   

fraser valley human dignitity coalition meeting

Anti-Asian Attacks 

Anti-Asian racism reports were also more frequent because of COVID-19. Some people of Asian descent were being asked, “Why aren’t you wearing a mask?” even while outdoors. And this was during the early days of the pandemic when wearing a mask wasn’t yet being encouraged. 

“Abbotsford is such a diverse city and I didn’t personally hear anything regarding hate crimes related to COVID among our clients. Some did however experience racially motivated labeling and insults when visiting other cities,” said Vivian, a Chinese Settlement Worker with the Archway Settlement Program. 

According to the Joo, a Korean Settlement Worker at Archway, the Korean Consulate encouraged seniors and women not to walk alone if possible.  

“Most of the Korean immigrants were sad, angry, and hopeless, myself included. But it was also a good time to reflect on the unconscious biases we all hold to avoid perpetuating the same harm. In my opinion, it’s key to be aware so that you don’t cause harm too,” Joo said. 

Diversity and Inclusion Workshops 

In addition to individual support, Diversity Education conducts workshops on various topics around diversity and inclusion.  

“Some people have definitely woken up to their privilege during this time. We’ve seen an increase in organizations utilizing our consulting and educating services to educate their staff and create inclusive policies,” said Deepak Purewal, one of the workshop facilitators. 

“There are many Abbotsford businesses that are working hard and reflecting on their policies in order to become more inclusive and diverse organizations. They are interested in finding out how they can celebrate different cultures without engaging in cultural appropriation. 

“It’s been encouraging for me on a personal level, because even though I grew up In Abbotsford, I never really visited certain parts because I didn’t feel like I belonged as someone of South Asian descent.  

“And now when we are doing presentations and we are seeing how hard these businesses are working, a shift’s happening in my mind, and I feel like I’m becoming a part of the bigger community and I’m included,” continued Deepak. 

And when it comes to ‘aha’ moments, most workshop participants resonated with the module called ‘The Four Levels of Witnessing’, which are part of Anti-racism Response Training. This helps them identify how they can support a victim of discrimination and many shared that this made them feel confident that they could intervene in the future.    

“I wish that there was less fear around how to respond to incidents and how to address internal biases. There is a fear because change is hard. When we have to reflect and look within it can be difficult to open up and dismantle what your thoughts and behavior have been,” Deepak shared.  

“I’m really encouraged by what we’re seeing and know that anti-racism work creates better and stronger communities for everyone.” 

We’ve definitely seen an increase in incident reports of racism and discrimination. With the Black Lives Matter movement and more people being vocal, individuals were searching for how to make those reports. Within a month, we saw the same number of reports that we would have had in an entire year

Alison Gutrath

Former Supervisor, Archway Diversity Education

Report an Incident

Have you been a target of racism and/or other forms of discrimination? Have you witnessed any discriminatory activity? We can help direct you to support and resources available in the community. 

 You will have the option of filling a report to the Government of BC. This report will be prepared by the Diversity Education staff and presented at our FVHDC meeting – you will remain anonymous. 

 Most racist and discriminatory activities are not recorded and this lack of data unfortunately, leads to problems being unidentified and solutions not being actively sought after in the government level. Help us change this. 

Levels of Support

The Diversity Education program offers support to victims and witnesses of racism and discrimination. They’ve identified three levels of assistance they offer:  

Support – Support includes being there for the person, listening and letting them know that their story is being heard. They also answer questions that the victim or witness might have, and they do their best to give options going forward. 

Resources – The resources are used mostly by witnesses. The program lends out resources and directs bystanders to organizations like the Human Rights Commission Clinic and the BC Office of the Human Rights Commissioner.   

Referrals – Victims can receive recommendations if there is a program or service they would benefit from. For example, one individual mentioned an experience with sexual abuse, and they were connected to a sexual abuse counselor. Another referral may be to a peer who has experience something similar, particularly within workplaces.  

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