Brandon University gets federal support to study racism in Manitoba

Canada Heritage will be offering $100,000 in federal support to the Brandon University’s Centre for Aboriginal and Rural Education Studies (BU CARES) research project investigating racism in Manitoba.

The project, called “Viral Vitriol? Using Online Platforms to Promote Peace,” aims to look at the different kinds of racism, bias and discrimination  in the province, and addressing this issue through a social media campaign that serves to educate the general public.

Michelle Lam

The BU CARES project will represent various minority groups, including Indigenous peoples, racialized communities, and religious minorities.

“We know in Canada that discrimination, bias and racism are real and that they are increasing,” said Michelle Lam, director of BU CARES as well as the one who will be leading the project on Tuesday.

“We want to increase the public awareness of what these experiences are like, and we want to promote discussions around these topics. Through these discussions and the body of evidence that we will be able to share, it shows the state of public opinion on these disparities.”

The first stage of the project is to conduct a survey asking people about their experience in racism in the past 12 months. BU CARES will be sending out the surveys in November and they plan to close the survey by the end of the year.

Lam hopes to collect around 4,000 responses before moving on to the data analysis which is expected to be done by next February. Then, the results from the analysis will be turned into scripts that will be tested with a diverse group of cultural representatives before moving on to the next stage.

The second stage of the project moves to create and distribute the videos on social media, educating the masses on racism.

Filming will take place in the summer of 2021. BU CARES is planning to launch and promote the videos in the fall of next year.

As an example, Lam noted a video may feature two people exiting a supermarket, one being white and another being Indigenous. The video may show a security guard who only stops visible minorities to ask for their receipts.

She plans to end the videos with the hashtag #thisisracism, which will become a central hub for discussion and education.

“My long term hope is that people can use this project as a launchpad for further discussions, research and initiatives, and to be able to become a society where everyone feels like they belong and things are right, just and equitable,” said Lam.

Funding from the Canada Heritage will go towards the expenses for the project such as hiring semi-professional actors for the videos, renting space for filming, software for survey and analysis, as well as video editing funds.

The funding will also go towards advertising and promoting the campaign.

“Through Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy, introduced in 2019, we are funding projects to combat racism in all of its forms,” said Bardish Chagger, Canada’s Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth in a press release.

“These projects will help address the systemic barriers that are preventing Indigenous Peoples, racialized communities, and religious minorities from participating fully and equitably in all aspects of society. We will continue our work as allies and partners with racialized communities to combat racism as we build a better and more consciously inclusive society.”