January 22nd, 2021

Token gestures don’t eliminate daily racism

By Lethbridge Herald on October 17, 2017.

I have a lot of respect for former mayor Bob Tarleck. Indeed, some of his initiatives brought about some positive relationship building between First Nations and the City of Lethbridge.
However, I would also like to note there is no irony in calling out the city on the toxic and systemic racism that continues to harm everyone.
I would like Mr. Tarleck to experience what it is like to have racist epithets being yelled at him from cars driving by as he simply walks home. I am intimate with that feeling.
I would like Mr. Tarleck to experience having to find housing, asking a “white” friend to call for a viewing, so the people showing the property don’t hear your accent.
I would like Mr. Tarleck to experience what it’s like to have to change his last name from a native one to a non-native one on his resume, just to get the call back, and eventually have a job interview that goes nowhere, and the job search only being fruitful when a non-bigot interviewer decides to hire him.
My niece is nine years old. In her class a young boy told the other students he has a “special name for natives” but they can’t tell their parents, the teacher or her. So whenever she looks his way, he whispers into the ears of other students, they look at her and laugh.
So in print on paper it’s fine to self-congratulate on a job well done, and say, “look, we’ve made progress! Your problem is ironic.”
An interpretation of Mr. Tarleck’s letter can be summarized as: “We have made token gestures that have absolved the city on an official level of any hint of racism, so why aren’t you happy? Aren’t these token gestures enough for you?”
An interpretation of this letter can be read as follows: “I understand your token gestures and applaud them. Here’s what racism actually feels like from a  person who experiences it daily.”
Yes, the First Nations community still faces incredible amounts of racism in daily life from the citizens of this city.
I can’t believe I have to respond publicly. The hateful people here know exactly what they do and say, and the non-hateful people who have remained silent have tolerated it for far too long.
Martin Heavy Head

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Thank you, Mr. Heavy Head. You speak truth to power.


powerful letter. i cannot imagine what it is like to be judged and treated negatively, even hatefully, for no reason other than my ethnicity.
while i cannot charge our returned mayor or any returned councilor with being racist or corrupt, it is sad indeed to watch this city re-elect a mayor and an entire council but one, that has overseen what often seems to amount to wasteful spending… and perhaps there has been some pocket lining? – only independent audits will provide us appropriate assurances and clarity, as there is no oversight near as proper at city hall.
the electorate had some real choices this time through. we had challengers that tried to unseat the incumbents by speaking to compassion, environment, sustainability, honesty, reduced spending in order to keep taxes down…but it seems the masses like what they have been made used to.
city taxation has far outpaced inflation the past decade; i think city wage increases have as well. city hall has been rife with big spending projects and cash outlays, and stupid or negligent or possibly corrupt “investment” and real estate deals of substantial value – but, never an audit. oh, we do see the city spend a lot on “consulting”.
to add to mr heavy head’s concern about racism in lethbridge, it is a loser’s game the desire to tramp down upon another in order to feel elevated – yet that is how racism serves the pathetic and horribly insecure. haters are a weak lot, but the hurt they cause is powerful. it is unfortunate that lethbridge is not the only canadian town that has too many of these sorts, and too little resolve at large to help grow the society out of its endemic indifference.
to this end, schools have significant role to play, but the reality is they may be doing too little. having an orange shirt day in schools or the like will hardly get us to the crux of the matter, just as the pink shirt has done little to quell bullying, just as wearing a leafs jersey does not get them to the stanley cup. in fact, while we now have a public school “offering delivery in an elementary school setting that teaches the Arabic language and culture”, and also a Spanish Bilingual program…i have not been able to confirm that that school also offers Blackfoot language and cultural programming to the same degree.
i have written before that we may be best to rid ourselves of division based on ethnicity, religion, skin colour, sexual orientation and the like, and start to look at the true being within. is it possible the perpetuation of such divisions only multiplies the problems of prejudice?


One thing I have noticed in my 3/4 of century in this province is that racism is a two edged sword and cuts on both strokes. That means racism works in two direction but some how is only seen or interpreted in one direction. It will be some time before these problems will be solved because of the complacency of people. This shows quite well in the election results of which I draw to conclusions:
1. People vote name recognition. (Previous council members and Mark Campbell)
2. The Conservative vote ” I would sooner elect the crook I know rather than the one I don’t.”
And Martin, Thank you for your letter.


agree with your conclusions 100%. The whole council is name recognition because Crowson is well known too.