In February 2020, in the first event of its kind, Surrey residents gathered to discuss the Indigenous experience of racism in Surrey, and how to address it. The Skookum Lab’s report, Seeing Racism Through an Indigenous Social Innovation Lens: Learning and Reflections from Skookum Lab Anti-Racism Symposium 2020, summarizes the experiences of those involved, and lays out next steps.
Surrey Indigenous residents “are repeatedly perceived as ‘knowing nothing’, ‘on welfare’, ‘lazy’, ‘violent’, and ‘not good mothers’.” Structural racism in Surrey means “families are ‘afraid’ to access services”, individuals hide their identity when seeking healthcare, and workers are discriminated against by employers.
Event facilitator and report author Jeska Slater said that “Racism is a problem right here in Surrey. We heard how Indigenous residents face racism every day. We also learned from them how we can fight racism.”
The report highlights the need to acknowledge that anti-Indigenous racism exists in Surrey. Non-Indigenous residents need to learn to see systemic racism, and work to become allies, without relying on Indigenous people to do the emotional labour for them. Indigenous residents need to be supported in the work they are doing: “Indigenous participants expressed that they feel “alone” in doing the work to combat racism.” Tools, policies, and structures are needed to respond to racism, and emerging Indigenous leaders need to be emboldened to fight racism in our community.
The event was put on as a part of the Skookum Lab. The Skookum Lab is a social innovation project designed to tackle Indigenous child and youth poverty in Surrey. It was convened by the Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee, a coalition that advocates for BC’s largest urban Indigenous community.
Joanne Mills, co-chair of the Surrey Urban Indigenous Leadership Committee, said that “Learning from this event, we have new direction to go forward in our mission of making Surrey a great place to raise an Indigenous child.
Indigenous Social Innovation Coordinator