From the Mayor's Desk:
Doug Lawrance, Mayor, Sioux Lookout
London and Sioux Lookout
Two weeks ago the discovery of the remains of 215 children at a former Indian Residential School in Kamloops shook the nation. It grabbed national and our local attention and hopefully keeps it as we collectively seek to make improvements and create the opportunities for reconciliation. One week ago the mass murder of a Muslim family in London, Ontario provided us with a shocking reminder that racism is still with us today in Canada. That act of hatred has jolted Canada and stirred calls for action and change to combat Islamophobia and racism in all forms.
The obvious connections between the Kamloops tragedy and Sioux Lookout are the Indian Residential School system and our significant Indigenous population. The connection between London and Sioux Lookout is less obvious; however, Sioux Lookout does have a small and growing Muslim population. Several months ago in a conversation I had with a Muslim man living in Sioux Lookout, he estimated that there are now approximately 40 Muslims – people of Islamic faith - living in Sioux Lookout.
In the aftermath of the London murders we read and hear of calls for action, for change, calls to put an end to racism and the phobias that lead to such senseless acts. Many of those calls are directed to governments – Federal, Provincial, and Municipal. And it is at those levels where broad and sweeping actions can be taken. But real change must come from a more local level – from community organizations, businesses, families, and individuals.
Locally and individually we can take action. In simple terms we must reach out, welcome, and engage with our fellow citizens - whatever their faith or race or difference from us. We must educate ourselves through informed conversation, reading, listening. We must call out those who speak in racist and bigoted language whether they do so directly or in coded terms. We must shut down and shut out social media posts that promote racism, religious phobias, and hatred. We must teach our children well.
The Muslim man I spoke with several months ago asked if I could help the growing community of Islamic people in Sioux Lookout to find a place where they could collectively worship. I was able to connect him with one of the local Christian churches and it is my understanding that a positive arrangement has been made, even if delayed by COVID. These are small things, but they foster understanding, communication, and mutual respect. All of which can be achieved at a local and individual level.
Unfortunately hate has been a sad part of our human history. Usually hate is in hiding, in the shadows. Hate waits for its’ moments to erupt. We have seen how leadership matters, how it can set the tone, create the openings for both good and bad to flourish. Let’s set the right tone as a community, as organizations, businesses, families, and individuals. Let’s welcome those of different faiths, races, customs, and backgrounds.
To all Muslims living in Sioux Lookout our hearts go out to you at this time. Please know that you are a welcome part of our growing and diverse community.