Calling for Premier to appoint an independent Commissioner on Systemic Racism
Statement from Gordon McNeilly:
Racism is real. It hurts at the core of our being.
The recent events of verbal racially based attacks directed at a young hockey player while visiting for a tournament in P.E.I., were not only embarrassing and shameful but deeply concerning. While this incident was more public than most, it is sadly only a glimpse into the reality that many Islanders and visitors experience every day.
My heart goes out to Mark Connors for this scar that he will live with for a long time. To Mark, I am deeply sorry for what you have gone through.
Our Island is special, we are a family, this pain affects us all.
For those of us who identify as black, indigenous, or persons of colour this hurt is experienced more often in the things we don’t say; the conversations one has in their own mind; the feelings that we often don’t express out loud or share with others.
Racism is not always as overt as Mark experienced, there are systemic barriers and subtle aggressions that are much more prevalent than we want to admit. This is not to say Mark’s experience is isolated but rather that the shock many people have expressed after learning of this incident, indicates a larger opportunity to highlight the lived experience of our neighbors and guests.
The fear, otherness and ignorance of racism has always confused me. Our society is much better and richer with diversity and inclusion.
Since this incident came to light, I have had many conversations regarding potential courses of action, questions about crime and punishment and social views on race stigma. This specific episode may have only involved a few people emboldened in a group setting who at the time did not think about the consequences of their words and actions. It is my hope that the external investigation commissioned by Hockey PEI will help the healing process and shed some light on why this happened.
The findings of this investigation will serve as a starting point but there will be no closure, no end to this pain until we come together and address our biases. We must speak with family and reach out to others with respect and on common ground. We have serious systemic changes to make to promote positive race relations so we can grow as one family.
As Islanders we can be leaders on diversity - it will require communication, understanding and actively reaching out to people on a human level. I will work hard to take the necessary steps to eliminate racism in sports and be the driving force to bring about change to eradicate racism on this Island.
While this government has taken small, slow steps to support organizations such as BIPOC USHR and the Black Cultural Society, a more strategic and targeted action plan is needed.
I am calling on the Premier to appoint an independent Commissioner on Systemic Racism to work collaboratively with government and stakeholders. In addition, we all have a role to play in continuing this conversation and developing a plan on how we work together to reduce the instances of racism that have been experienced by me, Mark, and too many others. Now is the time to come together and be part of the constructive solutions to ensure that Mark’s experience never happens again.
Racism is not solved by pointing fingers… Let us open our hands, and hearts and be the change.
Gordon McNeilly, MLA
Charlottetown, West Royalty