Winnipeg woke up to a body slam to the ego Thursday when Maclean's magazine called it Canada's most racist city. For many it was humiliating, an epithet that's hard to swallow in a city quick to defend its virtues.

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

Editorial

Winnipeg woke up to a body slam to the ego Thursday when Maclean's magazine called it Canada's most racist city. For many it was humiliating, an epithet that's hard to swallow in a city quick to defend its virtues.

Numerous surveys that looked at racial attitude and incidents throughout Canada were cited in the article. According to the report, the Prairies scored high on prejudice toward aboriginal people -- only 61 per cent of respondents said they would be comfortable with an aboriginal neighbour.

None of this can be news to Winnipeggers. A Winnipeg Free Press/Probe poll last fall determined many believe the racial divide in this city is a serious problem.

On Thursday, Mayor Brian Bowman faced the cameras at city hall -- at times speaking with great emotion -- to show Canada what else distinguishes Winnipeg: an impressive lineup of successful aboriginal leaders who are working with non-aboriginal leaders to break down the barriers of inequality plaguing the city and this province.

Mr. Bowman said Winnipeg can lead Canada to reconciliation with its aboriginal people, but only if it walks the talk.

He is right. This is an issue for city council because it strikes at how Winnipeggers live together. The successes and failures of this community, tied to this city's identity, will determine the prosperity of Winnipeg as a whole.

But it also requires the commitment of the provincial and federal governments, which hold constitutional responsibility to address the causes of social and economic inequality: The unequal funding for schools and social services on reserves, the dismal graduation rates among aboriginal people, the need for skills training for unemployed adults -- all of the factors feeding into joblessness, crime and addictions.

Racism is the trickle-down effect of historical colonial policies and laws that continue to cause excessively high rates of aboriginal unemployment, addictions, poverty, violence and poor health. It's a chain of pain too few wish to recognize -- the first step to dispelling prejudice.

Ordinary Winnipeggers must also take responsibility. They must demand government make a difference. Provide affordable housing, enrich preschool programs and set welfare rates that do not force people to decide between rent and food. This will improve the chances of success for new generations of children.

This is the challenge for Winnipeggers issued by civic leaders who stopped amid their busy days to get to the side of the city's first Métis mayor to speak to the city's future. Walk the talk and face for themselves the truths starkly outlined in the Maclean's article.

Mr. Bowman was right when he said Winnipeggers can lead Canada in a long-overdue reconciliation between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people.

Manitoban Ovide Mercredi, former leader of the Assembly of First Nations, said it best. The racism he has suffered, he said, he would wish on no Canadian. Yes, he said, Winnipeg and Manitoba have a racism problem. But so too, he noted, does every city in this country where all groups -- including white people -- have felt its sting and been diminished by its effect.

Everyone suffers in a divided city. It is time Winnipeggers got to know each other and to value each other as citizens. Trading on stereotypes fashioned by ignorance, fear and loathing just diminishes this city.