Notes from the MLA: Standing up to racism

Danielle Larivee,
MLA for Lesser Slave Lake

Albertans are stronger for our differences. And we are stronger when we stand together.

It’s something that my parents taught me, something I learned in Sunday school. I’ve seen it time and time again growing up in Lesser Slave Lake. Albertans care about their neighbours. We support each other and any time a friend needs a helping hand we’re there for them no questions asked.

Hard moments remind us of who we are. We are more similar than different. We are stronger together.

That’s why it’s been so disturbing in recent weeks to see political candidates in this province make comments about race, religion and who people love. Alberta made national headlines this week when several UCP nomination candidates were photographed with members of the Soldiers of Odin – a racist, white nationalist, anti-immigrant organization.

The UCP tried to say that when it comes to hate groups, we should “give them the benefit of the doubt” and that just because they were “polite” we should ignore their racist and hateful views.

That attitude is simply unacceptable. There is absolutely no debate in Alberta about how much racism is ok or tolerated.

This Jason Kenney-endorsed candidate believes that a group that promotes hatred and violence towards people based on their religion or colour of their skin is entitled to free speech.

There is a line. Neo-Nazis are clearly over the line.

Leadership isn’t finding a way to defend the free speech of Neo-Nazis.

But time and time again over the past several months, we’ve seen cases where UCP nomination candidates have promoted racist or homophobic views and were still allowed by Jason Kenney to stand for nomination.

Refusing to take action on hateful views will only make things worse. Newcomers have built this province. They are successful entrepreneurs, skilled tradespeople, caregivers who look after our children or aging parents, mayors and councilors who lead us. They are artists, musicians, cooks and craftspeople.

Before Canada ever became a country, First Nations and Metis people demonstrated hospitality to explorers, traders and early settlers. In communities from Driftpile, and Sucker Creek to Tall Cree and Loon River I’ve been to powwows and culture camps all over our riding and as anyone else who’s been can tell you the feeling of warmth and welcome I felt was like nothing else.

Here in Slave Lake, immigrant families have owned and operated family businesses here for generations. Earlier this year, I was proud to celebrate Slave Lake’s growing Filipino population – and our region continues to welcome families from all over the world who’ve come to put down roots in our communities.

Our government has the backs of these families and we’re on their side.

We have acknowledged and apologized for residential schools and the Sixties Scoop, we have created community grants to raise awareness and understanding of racism and its impact on Albertans, and we’re continuing to work to make life better for all Albertans.

However, the last few weeks have given us a startling reminder that extreme views are out there, and that we need to be doing more to fight their attempts to take Alberta backwards.

Albertans are stronger for our differences and as your MLA I’ll keep fighting to make sure that everyone feels safe and welcome here.

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