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Building Communities Together: BCS Launches Education and Allyship Program to Counter Racism and Discrimination

Written by Hossain Tahseen Anayet



Bangladeshi-Canadian Community Services (BCS) organized a transformative event addressing racism and discrimination, culminating in the launch of the Education and Allyship Program (EAP), generously funded by the Canadian government. The event held on December 09, 2023 in AccessPoint Danforth where 120 Leaders, activists, and community members gathered for insightful discussions and impactful initiatives.



The event commenced with land acknowledgement and welcome notes by Janet Davis, BCS board member and former councillor setting the tone for an enlightening dialogue for on countering prejudice anchoring by Maria Jabin and Farzana Yasmin. Jannatul Islam commemorated Bangladesh's 52nd victory anniversary, shedding light on achievements and persistent challenges.


Shairi Islam addressed rising hate crimes, presenting Education and Allyship Program (EAP) as a solution to empower communities through education, awareness, and action.  EAP anticipated outcomes include holistic understanding, addressing issues affecting marginalized communities, and increasing awareness of democratic institutions. EAP is a youth lead program that strives to improve community awareness of the different forms of racism and discrimination present in Canada as well as develop an understanding of how to be an ally to various marginalized communities. The EA program will have a focus on education, action, and allyship through initiatives such as interactive workshops, a resource toolkit, and a guest speaker series. Resource toolkits will be created based on the different workshops and be translated into different languages to make the topics more accessible and digestible for community members. This component will focus on providing community members with the tools required to feel empowered to take action against any incidents of discrimination they may face within their communities or in a professional setting. 



Tatiana Dociut, COO of Settlement Assistance and Family Support Services, underscored the importance of acknowledging historical injustices and fostering empathy for true equality in Canada. Collaborative efforts with Access Alliance, CASSA's call for racial equity, and discussions on various dimensions of discrimination were prominent.

Rezwan Karim, Director of Access Alliance, emphasized the importance of collaboration in launching the EAP. He shared alarming statistics, including a 40% reported discrimination based on skin colour and a 132% increase in hate crimes in Toronto. The partnership of BCS and Access Alliance aims to increase community awareness and create a welcoming environment through workshops and committees.

Samya Hasan, Executive Director of CASSA, extends solidarity with Indigenous communities and addresses the worsening racialism despite existing initiatives. Emphasizing the need for racial equity in investments, Hasan highlights common identity-based hate and discrimination trends on the rise. Urging recognition of colonialism, Hasan advocates for policy actions, collaborative toolkits, and knowledge dissemination to combat events like the Christ Church shooting. The call for increased government resources in marginalized communities, policy recommendations to the federal government, and encouragement of solidarity and Allyship underscore the importance of addressing racism as a cross-community issue. Hasan also notes the need for genuine commitment, as seen in the lack of implementation of the charter for racial justice by companies, highlighting concerns of transactional Allyship.

 



Firdaus Ali, Project Manager of NCCM, discussed subtle racism, the influence of right-wing leaders, and global gender-based hate. Dr. Mahbub Hasan emphasized the role of youth leaders, while Michelle Robidoux highlighted grassroots efforts against hate speech.

Rizwana Kaderina shared the impact of global events like 9/11 on Muslim communities, emphasizing the need for strategies to address Islamophobia. Sultana Jahangir discussed challenges, including the normalization of community racism, urging transformative actions.

In a recent discussion led by Emamul Haque, Executive Director of Progressive Action for Community Empowerment, the importance of language empowerment for diverse communities was highlighted. Uncovering the faces of racism, Haque stressed the need to share experiences, use individual roles to enact change, and raise awareness about implicit biases. Emphasizing the role of media, Haque urged individual responsibility and mobilization through community NGOs for a collective effort in combating racism.

Abdul Wahid, an advocate for diverse perspectives, emphasized the varying beliefs that can fuel racism and discrimination. He underscored the importance of working together to end discrimination, emphasizing collective responsibility in this effort.

Doly Begum, MPP, Scarborough Southwest, spoke passionately about holding leaders accountable, addressing Middle East injustices, and recognizing victims rather than blaming or sympathizing with perpetrators. Begum shared personal experiences with racism and Islamophobia, highlighting the role of education in ending discrimination and the need to challenge hate and negative preconceived notions.

The discussion concluded with examples on how communities can help create resilience, especially through children, by utilizing holidays and discussion times to address contentious topics. The leaders collectively stressed the significance of individual and collective action in fostering understanding and combating discrimination.

 

The event concluded with Nasima Akhter's call for collective action and a unified commitment from community leaders. The Education and Allyship Program (EAP) stand poised to make a significant impact, fostering resilient, empathetic communities united against racism and discrimination.

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