This is the theme of the pilot project underway in the Ontario region of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, Canada. In response to discussions at the national level regarding systemic racism, we began this project by recruiting members who were BIPOC ( Black, Indigenous & People of Colour) to form a systemic racism working group (SRWG). We now have a total of eleven members from Black, Asian and Indigenous cultures. The only Caucasian members are myself and our Ontario regional president.
There are three reasons we believe the Society should be taking actions on this issue:
- The barriers that BIPOC persons living in poverty face include education, housing, criminal justice and food insecurity.
- Catholic social teachings obligate us to take action, as they may relate to the principles of the dignity of every human being, the common good and the preferential option of the poor.
- Social justice calls on us to advocate with and on behalf of BIPOC persons for systemic changes in the structural barriers that keep them living in poverty and having to face discrimination.
The objectives of this pilot project are :
- To re-educate members on systemic racism and the need for and advantages of diversity & inclusion.
- To provide resources on how systemic racism affects BIPOC persons with an emphasis on those living in poverty.
- To encourage acknowledgement, dialogue and collaboration with BIPOC groups.
Before we are to attain and sustain any successful results from this project Caucasian members need to allow and be open to a systemic change in their personal thinking. There are many misconceptions about BIPOC persons which we can try to dispel via proper resources and education.
As a Canadian, I know for myself and perhaps others, we tend to think systemic racism only exists in other countries but if we look at it from within our borders, we can see it exists here too.
In closing, I’ve been a Vincentian for over 40 years and a member of various conferences, councils and committees. However, I have never experienced the level of inspiration and sharing and caring that I have during the monthly SRWG calls. Each member has shared some personal experience or insight into systemic racism which has made an ever lasting impact on my own understanding.
Our ability to invite dialogue and to learn, share and celebrate the many cultures and heritages we each have is a gift we should embrace and enjoy together.
About the author:
Jim Paddon lives in London, Ontario, Canada and is a Canadian Vincentian. He is currently chair of the National Social Justice Committee of the Society in Canada. He is married to his dear wife Pat and they have six daughters and eleven grandchildren. Jim has been a member of the Society since the 1970’s.