When "bannock lady" Althea Guiboche gets out of bed in the morning, she knows that sometime during the day she will be victimized by racism.

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This article was published 23/1/2015 (2716 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

When "bannock lady" Althea Guiboche gets out of bed in the morning, she knows that sometime during the day she will be victimized by racism.

"It's a daily thing and (it's) very disappointing," said Guiboche, who distributes lunches of bannock and soup or chili and pasta to the homeless.

"I try not to let it get me down. It has happened to me right from when I was a child, a baby, a toddler.

"It has happened my whole life."

Guiboche was one of more than two dozen aboriginals, elders, university heads, police representatives, and city councillors who emerged from Mayor Brian Bowman's office -- following a smudge ceremony -- to respond to a Maclean's magazine article headlined: Welcome to Winnipeg, where Canada's racism problem is at its worst.

The national headline put the issue of racism front and centre, and Bowman and others said while they agree Winnipeg has racism, they are working on the issue.

'I invite Winnipeggers to be part of breaking down these barriers... We do have racism in Winnipeg, but I see an opportunity'‐ Mayor Brian Bowman

Bowman got emotional, with his eyes tearing up and his voice breaking a couple of times, when he said his two young boys are children of a Métis father and a mother of Ukrainian heritage.

"I want my boys to be proud of both of these family lines," he said.

"I invite Winnipeggers to be part of breaking down these barriers... We do have racism in Winnipeg, but I see an opportunity.

"We can either kill the messenger or respond."

Those gathered behind Bowman included former Assembly of First Nations grand chief Ovide Mercredi, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak, treaty commissioner Jamie Wilson of the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba, University of Manitoba president David Barnard, University of Winnipeg president Annette Trimbee and United Way CEO Connie Walker.

In part, the Maclean's article examined several recent incidents, including the assault on 16-year-old Rinelle Harper, the homicide of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, and the release of an inquest report into Brian Sinclair's death in a hospital emergency waiting room.

The article said Winnipeg "is deeply divided along ethnic lines. It manifestly does not provide equal opportunity for aboriginals. And it is quickly becoming known for the subhuman treatment of its First Nations citizens, who suffer daily indignities and appalling violence.

"Winnipeg is arguably becoming Canada's most racist city."

Mayor Brian Bowman gets a little emotional while he addresses the media regarding racism in Winnipeg. He was joined by members from across the community.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Mayor Brian Bowman gets a little emotional while he addresses the media regarding racism in Winnipeg. He was joined by members from across the community.

Bowman said he was interviewed by the magazine's reporter several weeks ago. He learned when the article was running, and its headline, when Maclean's tweeted the cover Wednesday night. The print edition is out today.

The mayor said he began reading the online version of the article at about 9 a.m., and within minutes, his staff was on the phone asking people to join a news conference. "Some people only had 20 minutes' notice," Bowman said.

While not going into details, Bowman said in the coming weeks Winnipeggers will see "tangible announcements.

"We're moving in the right direction."

Nepinak said: "I am not here to pacify racism. We realize there are people wilfully blind and wilfully ignorant about racism... I want people to continue to stand up and be strong and talk about racism.

"I've been to different places around the world. If there is not dialogue happening, there is war happening."

Wilson said racism could be reduced if Canadians learn more about the treaties signed with aboriginal people.

"We need to have a better understanding of what that original relationship was all about," he said.

Winnipeg police Chief Devon Clunis said he doesn't believe racism is strictly a Winnipeg problem.

"It is a human condition," Clunis said. "We need to have a very difficult conversation about race."

Mercredi also agreed racism is a "national problem. And not just an experience of aboriginal people. It is faced by many people."

Mercredi said he is not asking Winnipeggers and Canadians to speak Cree, but not to treat him with racism.

"I am different. I should not be discriminated against. I have a right to be different. If we all agreed on the right to be different, it would go a long way."

The article returned the spotlight to Winnipeg's ethnic divide after several months of preoccupation with city hall scandals, said Wab Kinew, associate vice-president for indigenous relations at the University of Winnipeg.

"I thought it was bang on in showing racism is slurs, but it's also systemic and structural. It also hinted at showing Winnipeg had the potential to be a leader in this area," he said.

kevin.rollason@freepress.mb.ca

Maclean's magazine says Winnipeg is becoming Canada’s most racist city. The mayor acknowledges we have a problem. What do you think should happen next? Join the discussion in the comments below.

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason
Reporter

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.