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by Comfort Ero

"To say racism does not exist because of the mechanisms in place to curb it is like saying there are no more thieves because we have anti-theft devices."

TALKING ABOUT CANADA is talking about the rendezvous of all races of the world. It is a mini world with representatives from all corners of the globe. It is funny therefore to think of some races as more relevant than others because of the time and history of arrival or the colour of the skin.

In fairness to the government and most people of British Columbia, a war is being waged against racism and its ramifications. Nevertheless, there are some that want to put back the hands of the clock by going against all anti racist measures. They have no apologies for exhibiting their racist traits.

On the whole, however, people are very friendly here, in comparison to some other parts of the world. I belong to some literary societies like the Victoria Storytellers Guild and the Children's Literature Roundtable. My interaction with the people in these groups makes me feel like I belong here. The friends I have made are warm and enthusiastic. Never have I heard a racist word out of their mouths, nor have they, through their actions, told me that I am not wanted because of my race.

In public places such as the malls, parks, bus stops and post offices, most people are friendly and polite. It is also in some of these places that one is likely to encounter some die-hard racists. The local bus is a typical example. Two people very close to me had an encounter with a racist on a Victoria bus. The lady sat on the seat and by the time she realized the first occupant was black, she got up, telling her new neighbour how one should be award of pick pockets. At a different forum it was commented that a certain town had become so safe that doors could be left unlocked at night despite the presence of many blacks around.

The theatre group I belong to has involved many immigrants. We had a rehearsal hall in town. Across the street was this gentleman who pretended someone else had parked in front of his house to unceremoniously break into one of our sessions and shout out racist names. The police had to be called in to intervene to avoid such outbursts in the future.

An acquaintance worked in a day care centre in Vancouver. She worked with two or three other "white" Canadians. Each day, as parents drop off and pick up their children, she is totally ignored as they interact with her colleagues. Some even refuse to acknowledge here greetings. On days when they find her alone with the kids, she could read the displeasure on their faces. There are always a few exceptions but my friend said these were the most embarrassing moments for her.

In Victoria banks, there have been moments when customers refuse to be attended to by tellers from a visible minority group. Daily, people are rejected and kept from employment because of their features. It is these cases that try to tarnish the governments's effort in the elimination of racism. What is refreshing to note is that the efforts of the government have not all been in vain. Measures have been taken and results seen - take, for example, support for this publication.

Recently, Puente Theatre went around to some of the schools in British Columbia, staging skits showing the evils of racism and discrimination. All the schools visited showed their disgust for racism and intolerance and students and teachers got totally involved in the skits. Canada is a human society; it is not a paradise without problems. To say racism does not exist because of the mechanisms in place to curb it is like saying there are no more thieves because we have anti-theft devices. Racism is a human phenomenon. It cannot be totally erased. We have to contend with it. The solution is not in pretending that it is no longer with us, but in devising ways of stifling its growth in the minds of all, old and young. It is helping the government to help people look beyond the colour of the skin.

Comfort Ero, originally from Nigeria, arrived in Victoria in 1996. Comfort is an author of children's literature. Here in Victoria, Comfort is the Director of Ebonie Academy of Performing Arts.

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