2015 was the year Winnipeg was named the most racist city in Canada.
Now, Mayor Brian Bowman is working to flip the script. He has named 2016 the year of reconciliation in Winnipeg.
In front of a large gathering of community leaders and others at city hall, he reflected on his tearful comments about his family’s Metis heritage one year ago, saying he showed the video to his young boys.
“Our eldest son Hayden asked, ‘why are you crying? Did the Riders win?’ The Saskatchewan Roughriders had not won, but it did start a great conversation with our family and with our children,” he said.
Bowman hopes Winnipeg will continue conversations about racism, diversity and inclusion in 2016.
He also announced the steps the city will take in the wake of the One Summit on racism at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights last September.
Those include council will also develop an Urban Aboriginal Accord aimed at building relationships with Aboriginal governments and people.
He also pledged to implement calls to action aimed at municipalities from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including mandatory diversity training for city employees, putting up historical signage at the former Assiniboia Indian Residential School on Academy Road.
City libraries will also partner with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to educate and engage Winnipeggers.
Bowman will also look at how other cities are addressing racism, and visit every high school in the city to talk about reconciliation, diversity and civic engagement.
Nancy Macdonald, the author of the Maclean’s article, says she’s astonished by what Bowman has done in the last year.
“He could have done something very easy a year ago and denounced this article and the magazine. He did something far more brave and far more impactful. He stood up and acknowledged it and he’s shown a willingness to not only to do this in the past year, but carry it forward.”
In the middle of the speeches at the city hall event, Somali woman, who was not on the list of speakers, tearfully interrupted proceedings, shouting about how her children had been seized by CFS.
Her and her husband were eventually escorted to a private room by police chief Devon Clunis himself.
Clunis says he promised he would try to help.
“You have to understand that people are hurting and what they simply need was to hear that somebody understands. Let’s see what they can do to try and help you. That brings about some kind of reconciliation,” Clunis said.