Canada’s Ferguson: Maclean’s Slams Indigenous Race Relations in Winnipeg

Maclean's / The cover of Maclean's this week, profiling the racial divide in Winnipeg.

Canada’s Ferguson: Maclean’s Slams Indigenous Race Relations in Winnipeg

Branding Winnipeg Canada’s most racist city, the country’s most influential newsmagazine has put indigenous relations front and center, declaring them worse than the U.S.’s relations with its African-American population.

“Unfortunately, the truth is we have a far worse race problem than the United States,” writes Scott Gilmore in one of the cover stories. “We just can’t see it very easily.”

Newly elected Mayor Brian Bowman, who is Métis himself, gave a tearful news conference at which he vowed to fight racism after the magazine hit the stands on January 22, CTV News reported. But collectively, the array of stories is damning. From racist public comments on social media by a teacher (who has since been placed on unpaid leave), to the brutal murder of yet another aboriginal girl, 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, the illustrations of what indigenous people face on a daily basis in Winnipeg, Manitoba—ironically, the city with the highest aboriginal population in Canada—is starkly different than that of their white counterparts.

“Someone honks at me, or yells out, ‘How much’ from a car window, or calls me a stupid squaw, or tells me to go back to the rez,” indigenous writer Rosanna Deerchild told Maclean’s about what she faces every few weeks as she goes about her daily business. “Every time, it still feels like getting punched in the face.”

What galvanized the city most was the case of Tina Fontaine, who fell through the cracks of numerous agencies, only to be found wrapped in plastic in the Red River after she had been missing for days, having been sexually assaulted.

“It was an atrocious story, and it hit home in Winnipeg in a way that it never did before with the murder of an indigenous woman,” said Maclean’s Associate Editor Nancy Macdonald in an interview previewing the magazine’s Next Issue.

The bright spot in all this, Macdonald said, is that racism is finally being talked about. And, standing beside Bowman at the press conference, Ovide Mercredi, Cree Métis and a former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said it does not just happen to Indigenous Peoples.

“It’s experienced by people of color and white people as well,” he said, according to CTV News. “This is a national problem.”

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