Funding for enhanced anti-racism programs has come the way of several Thompson-Okanagan organizations.
The province announced a total of 36 communities that received funding from the Multiculturalism Grants stream Friday (April 16), under the province’s new banner: the Resilience BC Anti-Racism Network, which launched in 2020.
Resilience BC is an updated anti-racism program that uses a hub-and-spoke model, with the province serving as the hub.
The North Okanagan Social Planning Council will serve as the region’s “spoke,” which is why it received the most funding out of all B.C. communities, to the tune of $35,000.
The Council has been receiving anti-racism funding from the province since 2010, working collaboratively with other Thompson-Okanagan organizations. The Council’s four partner organizations are tied into the funding: the Kamloops Immigrant Services Society, Kelowna Community Resources, South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services (Penticton) and the Shuswap Immigrant Services Society (Salmon Arm).
Annette Sharkey, executive director for the Social Planning Council, says the region’s network appreciates not only the added funding, but also the new structure that’s been introduced: Resilience BC’s hub-and-spoke model is designed to connect communities so that resources for anti-racism efforts can be shared throughout the province.
“The different communities really did feel that in some ways we were doing the work in isolation, and this was something we had asked the province (about), that we felt having a provincial hub … would be really helpful for us.”
The new program will help organizations avoid duplicating their efforts and allow them to more easily tie into provincial campaigns,” Sharkey said.
On the subject of provincial campaigns, the province recently raised the Resilience BC banner in the form of a dedicated website, resiliencebc.ca, which features hate crime reporting tools, education resources, news updates and a new social media campaign.
The idea is to combine the efforts of organizations under a single umbrella.
It’s essentially a scaled-up version of what’s been done locally; the Thompson-Okanagan group has worked well together, says Sharkey, which is why it’s been kept intact under the new program.
Having worked with the Resilience BC hub for close to a year, Sharkey said it’s been an “amazing resource” for sharing the insights of prominent anti-racism speakers throughout the broadened network.
And, strangely, the pandemic’s way of shifting most services online has smoothed out this process, to the benefit of anti-racism awareness facilitators who, like most people by now, are equipped for virtual communication.
“It’s been a game changer for us in doing this type of work,” Sharkey said. “To be able to have someone very skilled to come in and do that work in our community, that’s been a real advantage to us.”
One hope is that Resilience BC will allow for better bridging of anti-racism tools between urban and rural centres.
“We’ve had some very skilled and very effective local Indigenous educators and facilitators, but when it came to Black or anti-Black racism or broader racism against people of colour, we didn’t necessarily have that expertise locally,” Sharkey said of the prior system.
People around the world have been reckoning with the broad issues of racism and systemic racism with heightened scrutiny for nearly a year. Recently, public outrage has boiled over in the U.S. following the controversial trial of Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who was found guilty of murder in relation to the death of George Floyd in May 2020.
Sharkey says it can be hard for local citizens to understand the nuances of U.S.-based discussions of racism.
“Even just (because of) our demographic; we’re largely white communities.”
In her years with the Social Planning Council, she’s been asked whether racism really is a problem in the local area.
Her response is that in predominantly white communities, those who aren’t white can be vulnerable to racist attitudes, but less visible.
“If you aren’t white in our communities, what does that feel like, and what has your experience been? I think it’s important to keep that in mind, and what we’ve found with the workshops we’ve had is just a real interest from people who want to learn how to be an ally, how to be more aware, how to understand what it might feel like to be white versus non-white in a community,” Sharkey said.
The five local organizations, who meet at least twice a year, will do so next week to discuss options and share ideas for programs to fund.