Message from Michael Gottheil,

Chief of the Commission and Tribunals, Alberta Human Rights Commission

(February 16, 2019)
Black History Month
Opening remarks at the Dialogue for Taking Action Against Racism hosted by Alliance Jeunesse-Famille de l’Alberta Society at the Campus Saint-Jean, Edmonton
“It gives me great pleasure, and it is truly an honour to bring greetings on behalf of the Alberta Human Rights Commission. The Commission has a long tradition of supporting the Black community in Alberta, including projects and programs launched by African-Albertan organizations. The impact of those projects has helped to build a strong presence for Black and Franco-African youth in our province. We look forward to continuing these relationships.

One of my favorite quotes was coined by Ursula Franklin, the late Canadian physicist and social justice activist. She said, “A just society is like a pot-luck dinner. Everyone brings something, everyone gets something.” I love that metaphor. It speaks to the value and richness of diversity. It speaks to our collective responsibility to our community and to one another. And it speaks to the strength of a society that embraces its diverse history and citizenry.

I truly believe that this image reflects the core of Alberta society. In fact, the preamble to the Alberta Human Rights Act states:
WHEREAS multiculturalism describes the diverse racial and
cultural composition of Alberta society and its importance is
recognized in Alberta as a fundamental principle and a matter of
public policy; and
WHEREAS it is recognized in Alberta as a fundamental principle
and as a matter of public policy that all Albertans should share in
an awareness and appreciation of the diverse racial and cultural
composition of society and that the richness of life in Alberta is
enhanced by sharing that diversity;
Yet, there are many Albertans, and Indigenous people whose ancestors have lived on these lands for tens of thousands of years, who do not always feel at home, who question whether their history and identities are truly valued, and are recognized as part of the strength of Alberta. 

This is something we must acknowledge and address.
It has always struck me that incidents of hate speech are not just disturbing and distasteful. They send strong underlying messages. They say to the target of the hatred that, “you are not part of us, you are different, and your difference is not welcome here.” It says, “You might think our community is built on principles of freedom, equality and human dignity, but those principles don’t apply to you. They only apply to us, and remember, you are not one of us.”
Now, that is wrong, in fact and in law, but those words and attitudes can make people shy away from expressing who they are, where they come from, and contributing to the community. 
And in this way, we all suffer.  We are all weaker; we are all poorer.
So, on this day when we come together to celebrate the diversity and contributions of Alberta’s Black community, remember the words of Ursula Franklin, remember the preamble to the Alberta Human Rights Act, and remember that it is recognized, as a matter of public policy, that the richness of life in Alberta is enhanced by sharing our rich cultural and racial diversity.

Thank you.” 
 

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