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CMTN President’s statement on racism

Jun 05, 2020
Over the last week and a half, in the wake of the senseless and tragic death of George Floyd in the United States, public attention has been focused on the widespread racial discrimination that takes place every single day, affecting people of colour. What’s happening south of the border affects us all. It affects us because it happens here in Canada every day. It happens in the communities you and I live in. It is a part of our daily lives, whether it happens around us, to us, or because of us.
 
Coast Mountain College serves a wide area reaching from Haida Gwaii to Houston. Our region encompasses 34 communities – 21 of which are Indigenous communities. Nearly 50 per cent of our student population is Indigenous and more than 300 international students hailing from more than 12 countries study at CMTN, live, work and socialize in our communities. Many of these students are students of colour, including black students. 

We also have a diverse staff and faculty made up of people of all backgrounds including black Canadians, Indigenous peoples and many other people of colour. Their lived experience includes subtle and overt acts of racism on a regular basis. Highway 16, which runs through much of our region, is called the Highway of Tears because of the many instances of missing and murdered Indigenous women in the region we serve. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action outlined many of the uncomfortable truths about racism in our country, systems and institutions, and we are only starting to come to grips with them.
 
I recognize that I am writing this message from a place of privilege. I am not a person of colour. I have struggled with what to say and to write in the wake of George Floyd’s death. But as a student I spoke to told me, sometimes it isn’t about saying the right thing. It’s about saying something. Speaking up. 
 
Let me be clear: black lives matter. We need to learn and understand how to do better. We need to listen to the stories of our black community members and amplify them.
  
I ask all of you, just like the student I spoke to, to hold us accountable. We all have the obligation to call out racism. I also encourage all of us to create space where judgement and assumptions are put aside. To make room in our classes and our discussions for the uncomfortable conversations – because this is where growth and understanding can start.  To support the conversation, CMTN will be engaging our students in advance of hosting virtual townhalls with our students this fall to allow people to share their stories and ideas in a safe and respectful environment. 

Engaging in this conversation is one thing we can all do to open our hearts to eradicate assumptions and beliefs that have fed discrimination for too long. 
 

Sincerely,

Justin Kohlman
President & CEO
Coast Mountain College