WINNIPEG (Treaty 1 Territory) –
To Students In Manitoba,
For many people, the current state of racial politics has soared to heights of recognition that we have never before felt in our lifetimes. We have been blanketed by a global call of justice for Black communities in the past few weeks. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmed Arbury in the United States, and Regis Korchinski-Pacquet in Canada at the hands of police have reignited our sense of urgency for racial equality not only in The United States and Canada, but around the world.
Representing over 40,000 students from across this province, the Canadian Federation of Students – Manitoba fights for an affordable and quality experience in the post-secondary system. We are challenged not only by oppressive governments and administrations, but also by the inherent colonial structures these institutions are built from. Through this, we’ve inherited a broken system that has become a burden for students to mend. While these universities and colleges have made strides through “Respectful Learning and Workplace Policies” and “Equity, and Diversity and Inclusion” practices, the experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) continues to be an afterthought.
Before serving as this organization’s Chairperson, I was involved in the University of Winnipeg Students’ Association for over four years as a board director, volunteer and part-time staff member as well as an executive for two of those years. Through these positions, I have witnessed the inner workings of the university and student unions. As a second generation Filipino/Canadian and first generation university student, I have been forced to adapt to the normalization of racism that occurs within these spaces.
As racialized student leaders, we are often burdened with having to address the ongoing interpersonal and institutional violence against BIPOC folx. In my years serving students through my various positions, this task has become a tedious errand that exhausts my time and energy which would be better used supporting students. Yet that has never overshadowed my job of listening and creating paths forward for the BIPOC community. When student leaders deny the stories of individuals and invalidate their experiences as “untrue”, the most important voices for change are silenced. This further rationalizes violence in facilities which are already designed to oppress them. The bar is set too high for mistakes to be made by elected student representatives who do not address students’ concerns seriously. I too understand this burden of leadership; if I am unwilling to address students’ criticisms of my methods of leadership, then I am in no place to be cutting ribbons.
In denying experiences of anti-blackness and misogyny in the forms of harassment, stalking, and intimidation, one chooses to accept the rationalization of this violence. You begin to choose the side of the oppressor when you believe that order is synonymous with peace. Order under colonial structures normalizes violence against BIPOC folx. It is important for leaders in every space to understand this, otherwise we will never see the change or the justice that our communities deserve. Without this recognition, normalized racism robs our humanity from us and devalues our lives.
In my role as the 2020-2021 Chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students – Manitoba, I understand that racism will continue to occur. I have never lived a day in my life where I’ve seen otherwise. But it is important now as always that in our roles we respond with empathy, love, and a plan for change. Our organization will continue to support the BIPOC community in and out of these institutions. We will support students in the face of racism by constantly challenging it and creating space to heal. As long as we exist, we will always resist.
In Good Relations,
Brenden Bhoy Gali
Canadian Federation of Students – Manitoba