“Racism persists in systems and institutions, and we must do all we can to address it” – Grand Chief Daniels
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 21, 2023
ANISHINAABE AND DAKOTA TERRITORY, MB — Today, the Southern Chiefs’ Organization (SCO) joins people around the globe in recognizing the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
“Today, and every day, and on behalf of the southern Chiefs of Manitoba, I urge everyone to consider how we can finally eliminate racism from all systems and aspects that govern our daily lives,” said SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels. “If we do that, and we all work together, we will build a better world for all peoples who share Mother Earth.”
The United Nations (UN) established the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 1966 as part of a larger effort to denounce South Africa’s apartheid regime. In choosing March 21, the UN commemorated the victims of the Sharpeville Massacre. On that day in 1960, the South African Police opened fire on a peaceful crowd of adults and children in the Black township of Sharpeville, killing 69 and wounding more than 180. The crowd had been walking to the local police station to protest pass laws that, among other injustices, restricted where Black South Africans could live, travel, and work.
Here on Turtle Island, SCO continues to advocate for changes to address the systemic racism that exists in health care, education, policing, and the justice system. SCO published reports looking into the extent of racism in policing and health care. SCO’s Health Transformation Department will launch an Anti-Racism Office as part of our work to transform the health care system for southern First Nations citizens.
A recent front page story by Free Press reporter Dean Pritchard shares the journey of two men charged with the same offence who appeared before the same judge. The First Nations man was sent to prison, the non-Indigenous man was allowed to serve his sentence in the community. SCO is continually seeking ways to address the systemic racism that persists within the justice system.
Racism is evident within school systems. A Winnipeg School Division report released in 2021 showed that 55 per cent of suspensions administered in the Winnipeg School Division were given to Indigenous students, despite this group making up only 26 per cent of the total student population. This has a direct impact on student success and graduation rates and , right now in Manitoba only 51 per cent of Indigenous students are graduating from high school.
“So much of the trauma and generational impacts of the systems that have impacted First Nations citizens in Manitoba are steeped in racist policies and attitudes,” added Dakota Plains Wahpeton Oyate Chief Don Smoke. “Now that more Canadians know the truth about how this country was founded, and what our people endured and continue to endure, it is imperative that we come together to commit to change. Let’s work to end racism in Manitoba.”
SCO’s projects and programs work to address systemic racism in policing, education, and health care delivery in our Nations. SCO is working to restore original citizenship, language, laws, institutions, ceremonies, protocols, and procedures of governance and repair more than 150 years of racist colonial rule.
“All human beings are born free and equal, and have the potential to contribute to the development and well-being of their societies,” concluded Grand Chief Daniels. “My sincere hope is that the people I represent one day benefit from living in a world that is free of colonization, repression, discrimination, and racism.”
The Southern Chiefs’ Organization represents 34 First Nations and more than 83,000 citizens in what is now called southern Manitoba. SCO is an independent political organization that protects, preserves, promotes, and enhances First Nations peoples’ inherent rights, languages, customs, and traditions through the application and implementation of the spirit and intent of the Treaty-making process.
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