Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
March 11, 2000 - Issue 05

150 Youths Join Efforts to Stop Racism
by Michelle MacAfee at Canadian Aboriginal News

Tina Sawchuk admits she has never seen any blatant racism reflected in the windows of her mostly white, middle-class Edmonton neighbourhood.

But the 16-year-old high school student knew that wasn't the case throughout her city, province and country. That prompted her to join about 150 youths criss-crossing Canada in small groups this week in an effort to stop racism.

The youths, representing several countries, will regroup in Ottawa on Friday for an international forum on racism, organized by the federal government.

``Where I live everyone is very much the same and there's not a lot of racial diversity,'' Sawchuk said Tuesday during a stop in Montreal.

``But through this project I've now seen a more diverse side to the city (Edmonton) and I realize it's such a big world.'

The Canadian students were selected for the tour based on projects they created to raise awareness in their communities.

Sawchuk's group, for example, made a 17-minute documentary about the origins of racism and possible solutions, while another team created a rap song.

The concept of a national education campaign, and Canada's recognition of March 21 as the International Day for the Elimination of Racism, has attracted the attention of U.S. President Bill Clinton, said Andrew Lee, one of the tour's organizers in Montreal.

Clinton apparently plans to create a similar program based on the Canadian example.

The impact on the youths is enormous, said Lee, a regional director of the Boys and Girls Clubs in Montreal.

``By letting young people talk about important issues it opens doors to them on a personal development level,'' said Lee.

``They recognize the power they have to spread the good word that people can make a difference.''

Lauren Buness, a 16-year-old high-school student in Prince Albert, Sask., needs to look no further than the headlines in her local newspaper for proof that more needs to be done to fight racism.

Protest marches were held last weekend in Prince Albert and Saskatoon following allegations that officers with the Saskatoon Police Department have dumped Aboriginals on the outskirts of town in sub-zero temperatures.

Buness has focused her attention on educating children as young as five about racism in the hope of eliminating stereotypes she says are all too common around town.

For example, she says many non-Aboriginal women will hold their purses a little tighter when an Aboriginal passes them on the street.

``I know racism will never be fully gone but it can't be as bad.''

Find out what YOU can do to combat racism:
Say NO to Racism

Teaching Tolerance

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