Alison Gutrath is the program supervisor for the Fraser Valley Human Dignity Coalition program in Abbotsford. (Don Gutrath Photography)

Coalition urges people to report discrimination and racism

Abbotsford-based group says current reports are ‘just scratching the surface’

When Lia Bishop’s pride flag was cut up, she knew exactly what to do.

She reported the incident to police, contacted local media, and notified the Fraser Valley Human Dignity Coalition (FVHDC) program.

As a former FVHDC employee, she was aware of her options, but current staff know there are many acts of discrimination and racism going unreported.

In one of the latest examples, a video of a woman berating staff for not speaking English in a Burnaby store recently went viral, but the police had not been notified.

Program supervisor Alison Gutrath said the FVHDC typically receives one or two formal reports a month, but that is “just scratching the surface.”

“Whether it’s fear, lack of awareness or not understanding the importance of reporting, we are receiving limited data to work with and to use to guide awareness, policies and education efforts,” she said.

RELATED: Abbotsford woman’s pride flag cut up and left on doorstep

RELATED: ‘Speak English in Canada’: Woman’s racist rant at B.C. drugstore staff goes viral

“Every situation is unique; sometimes we’ll recommend they file a police report, or refer them to counselling or see if we can bring the incident up the chain at their work or school. Our job is to support the victim and work towards a resolution that is right for them.”

The FVHDC program is part of Archway Community Services (formerly known as Abbotsford Community Services) and is funded by the province of BC through an Organizing Against Racism and Hate (OARH) grant.

The OARH was established in 2001 to support a coordinated community approach to counter racism and hate activity in B.C.

Every three months, representatives from community stakeholders – such as the Abbotsford Police Department, Abbotsford School District, University of the Fraser Valley and multiple others – attend an open meeting.

There, they listen to incident reports and discuss possible next steps, discuss social justice issues in the community and listen to presentations from different groups.

They also work collaboratively to design programs, projects and events to promote inclusion and harmony in the community.

Fiona McDonald, head of the political science department at University of the Fraser Valley, said she values the FVHDC.

“It’s a grassroots group that brings people together for the good of the community by offering a safe and supportive place to report, discuss, and respond to discrimination,” she said.

Anyone who is a victim or bystander during an incident is asked to contact the FVHDC at diversity@archway.ca or 604-859-7681 (local 270).

Reporting is confidential and will not be shared anonymously with the group without permission.

The next public meeting will be held Tuesday, Nov. 26 at 6 p.m. RSVP at FraserValleyHumanDignityCoalition.com.

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