Kenney’s Answer to Systemic Racism: The Tinkerbell Effect

“This time it’s different.” – Masai Ujiri, president of the NBA champion Toronto Raptors

The death of George Floyd ignited extraordinary protests around the world. Black, brown, and indigenous people and their supporters are saying this time it’s different.

Albertans joined thousands of people across the globe calling on their leaders to address systemic racism in their institutions and their places of work.

Based on the Legislative debate on two motions on systemic racism, it appears the call for Mr Kenney to show leadership will be ignored.      

Two motions*

The NDP presented a motion asking the government to create a province-wide panel to examine and make recommendations with respect to systemic racism in Alberta. The panel would be made up of members of the Anti-Racism Advisory Council, provincial indigenous leadership, and Black Lives Matter (Alberta) and would bring back its findings and recommendations by October 1, 2020.

Given that panels are near and dear to the UCP government’s heart, one would have thought they’d leap at the chance to convene a panel that would focus on something real for a change.

Nope. Afraid not.

Mr Kenney said he was pleased we were having “social debate on the evil of racism” but the only thing his government intends to do is pass a motion that condemns racism and all forms of bigotry and hatred, affirms Alberta’s commitment to human dignity and the equality of all before the law, acknowledges the pernicious and durable nature of antiblack racism, acknowledges the tragic history of racism directed at indigenous people in Canada, and also urges the government to consider these issues in the context of the Police Act review.

Mr Kenney

Wow, the only concrete step Mr Kenney is prepared to make to address systemic racism is to consider it in the context of the Police Act review, which Mr Schweitzer, the justice minister, says will include reaching out to First Nations police chiefs and indigenous leadership. Schweitzer hasn’t mentioned consulting with blacks and people of colour, hopefully he’ll correct this oversight immediately.

Tinkering with the Police Act to address systemic racism which, by definition, is racism embedded in our society and institutions including the criminal justice system, employment, housing, health care, education and politics just doesn’t cut it.

Why won’t UCP go there?

Given Mr Kenney’s position that systemic racism can be addressed by fiddling with a mechanism in our criminal justice system, the government should have been amenable to the NDP’s amendment* to the Parole Board Act which will allow Alberta to set up its own provincial parole board.

Nope. Afraid not.

Kathleen Ganley, the NDP justice critic, proposed an amendment that would require the 5 to 9 member board to include at least one member who represents the indigenous community and one member who represents other minority communities that are  disproportionately represented in prisons.

The UCP government objected to this amendment for a number of reasons, none of which made sense. They said:

  • It would increase the minimum number of parole members (well, you could replace two white parole board members with two minority members, couldn’t you?)
  • The government would have to find a qualified minority parole board candidate who was actually interested in the task. (Are you seriously saying that in all of Alberta you can’t find two members of minority communities who are both qualified and interested in parole matters?)
  • The parole board will have its own processes that are “culturally sensitive” to minority offenders which will be much more effective than having an actual representative of that minority community on the board.  
  • The amendment is offensive because it’s a quota. No one needs quotas, all they need is to “take the first step”, network, and they’ll succeed.

Good lord.     

The Tinkerbell Effect  

It is true that Mr Kenney condemned racism as “an unqualified evil” and “a sickness of the soul” but when he suggested racism could be rooted out by “the power of relationships” where individuals reach out to each other and try to understand each other, he fell prey to the Tinkerbell Effect (believe in something hard enough and it will happen). Sorry premier, that’s a fairy tale.

Given Mr Kenney’s faith in the power of the individual to eradicate systemic racism, it’s not surprising his government dismantled Rachel Notley’s programs to combat racism.

The UCP government is no longer actively funding the Anti-Racism Advisory Council which was established by the NDP to evaluate the action plans against racism (these plans are outlined in the Taking Action Against Racism report). The Council hasn’t met in months.

The UCP government terminated community grant programs like the human rights education fund and the antiracism community group program established by the NDP to help communities combat racism and increase awareness.

All of this leads us to the conclusion that while Masai Ujiri may be right and this time it’s different, in Alberta this will be true in spite of Kenney’s leadership, not because of it.  

*See Alberta Hansard June 16, 2020 starting at p 1386

*See Alberta Hansard June 16, 2020 starting at p 1415

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27 Responses to Kenney’s Answer to Systemic Racism: The Tinkerbell Effect

  1. James Carter says:

    I’m sure Harper will get tired of this soon. The people might get angry.

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Dwayne says:

    Susan: Thanks for another great blog. The UCP never seem to do anything that is right. It seems that never a day goes by, without the UCP saying or doing something that is stupid. We all must do our part to tackle racism. However, there are people who simply don’t care about it. The government also has to do something about it. The UCP isn’t properly dealing with it, and is taking a backwards approach. By undoing the initiatives that the NDP started, it’s not helping make progress on the serious matter of combatting racism in Alberta. Then again, the UCP won’t deal with their own candidates and MLAs, like Grant Hunter, when they have made inappropriate comments. When we have Reform type politicians in politics, it is very scary indeed. This hearkens back to the Social Credit days in Alberta. Peter Lougheed was against the Reform Party, because it reminded him of the Social Credit Party, he helped to replace. There were racists in both parties.The separatist ilk in Alberta, also has this backwards thinking. They were also behind the racists in Innisfail, protesting the anti racism march. Terrible.

    • Great comments Dwayne. Remember in the last election when two UCP candidates, Eva Kiryakos and Caylan Ford, had to step down for posting white nationalist and Islamophobic comments on social media. Kenney said they could stay in the party as long as they didn’t belong to organizations “actively promoting hatred”. (As if that makes any difference) He also said it was impossible for the UCP to police the views and social media posts of its 160,000 members. Fine, but surely the UCP could have vetted the views of the 87 UCP candidates, including Kiryakos and Ford, who were star candidates running in key ridings . Or maybe it really doesn’t matter that much to Kenney and his party.

      • Dwayne says:

        Susan: There were farmers and ranchers around Innisfail who were ready to threaten those in the anti racism march with bullets, if they caused any ‘trouble’. These farmers and ranchers were full on racists. Peter Downing, the Wexit architect, didn’t condemn these farmers and ranchers either. I also don’t recall Jason Kenney saying anything about these farmers and ranchers. If people think that racism doesn’t exist in Alberta, or in Canada, they are very blind to it. It’s a situation that’s not going away, unless it’s properly dealt with.

      • Dwayne, Kenney did speak out about this event. He said ““I commend people for speaking out against racism in this current context,” This made me wonder whether he would not commend people for speaking out against racism in a different context. I always worry when he minces around with words. If he really wants to demonstrate he means it then he can show up at the Innisfall rally. Here’s the Calgary Herald article about this. What’s interesting is all the comments from the people objecting to the rally which, as you point out, demonstrate in no uncertain terms that many many people are still deeply racist.

  3. CallmeHal2000 says:

    When we look at systemic racism, we need to consider the plight of families in Calgary’s northeast. Apparently Tinker Bell is happy to help oil workers in Fort McMurray, but turns his back on racialized minorities in the city. Water is water, whether it’s floods from rivers in Fort McMurray (a regular periodic event there) or water from an unusually severe storm in Calgary (a city which he seems to be taking for granted).

    Yesterday there was another rain event, although not on the scale of the storm last week. People in the hardest-hit communities are speaking louder in their call for provincial assistance. Ignoring them to go take photos with cattle really tells you where Tink’s priorities are. He’s oblivious.

    People in cities do not exist solely to subsidize rural voters. Turning his back on urban dwellers, especially large populations of racialized minorities, is not only callous and tone deaf, it could be his undoing. There are 20,000 insurance claims so far, and the damage is estimated at $1B.

  4. Dave says:

    For all of Mr. Kenney’s flaws, I have always thought he was more broad minded on the issue of race and nationality than some of his party members and I am a bit surprised he is not actually taking the opportunity now to show that by doing more and I wonder why.

    Yes, he says nice words, but at this point actions matter, perhaps more. Certainly some of the racism that exists is at an individual level and we need to deal with that also, but I think the word systemic indicates a bigger problem, reform is needed at the organizational or institutional level. Having minority representation on the parole board is good idea to help work on the systemic problem and financially it costs little or nothing. I am surprised it should be rejected out of hand.

    I have to wonder whether Kenney who seemed to used to revel in going to multicultural events as a Federal minister has become too comfortable here in Alberta just playing to the UCP base which doesn’t tend to be that racially diverse. Either that or he is afraid of upsetting them.

    It’s odd that Mr. Kenney who can take bold action in other areas, seems reluctant to take much of a leadership role here.

    • Dave, you nailed it when you said systemic racism cannot be addressed at the individual level. The UCP may not be able to fix every institution overnight, but surely making room for two minority parole board members would be a good start.
      I have no idea what Kenney’s beliefs are, but during the debate on the UCP motion he said: “I think the critical remedy is to find common ground to bring people together, to get to know each other as human beings, as women and men, who I believe as a person of faith are ultimately creatures of God, equal in dignity before God.”
      Kenney seems to be saying a belief in God will lead to “the critical remedy”. Of course we don’t know whether he’s talking about about a belief in the Christian God or other non-Christian deities. Also he’s ignoring the fact that a belief in God doesn’t preclude someone from being a racist.
      The fact Kenney turned to religion as the solution to systemic racism is both naive and extremely troubling.

  5. leila Keith says:

    Kenny is destroying Alberta and his top down political boards are not helping the many crisis situations in Health,Racism to name a couple of these issues..sooner he goes the better!

  6. CallmeHal2000 says:

    Provincial court judge-appointment committee members selected by the UCP without proper vetting for discriminatory racist views.

    Parole boards appointed by the UCP for those serving sentences under two years (provincial court).

    Fish and Wildlife officers doing law enforcement work beyond the scope of their original roles, and without the training of the law enforcement officers who were previously filling this purpose.

    Deputy dawgs as discussed in the legislature yesterday (posses?).

    Bill 1.

    Privatizing parks and turning them into strip mines.

    What could possibly go wrong? Aren’t Indigenous communities located in rural areas? Aren’t some of them in areas downstream from the future coal mines?

    If I’m not mistaken, the groundwork is being laid for the new Wild West, Alberta-style. Remembering that the now-RCMP were created back in the 19th century to avoid the situation going on south of the border. Here we are in the 21st century, moving backward in time to the age of Red River carts, before automobiles and oil. The pace of regression is astounding under the UCP. Systemic racism is being buttressed in 2020.

    • CallmeHal2000 says:

      It is worth pointing out that the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act (formerly Bill 1, enacted last week) deals in sentences up to six months, which fall under the scope of provincial court.

      It is also worth noting that public transportation is lacking in many rural communities, and in Indigenous communities, so some people have no choice but to walk. A person walking on a rural road or highway could be arrested and charged for the mere act of being there. How will that go if that person happens to be Indigenous, walking on a road near their home, and a Fish and Wildlife officer or deputy arrests and charges them? What about walking on a road near a new coal mine?

      This won’t end well. And now it is being challenged.

      • CallmeHal2000 says:

        Here’s a cautionary tale out of Saskatchewan, where the “tough on rural crime” stance led to mission creep by the highway patrol.

        Why on earth does the highway patrol need fully automatic rifles, an AR-10 carbine, silencers, a drone, and a high power rifle scope? They claim some of this is strictly for training purposes. Why train if you’ll never use these things? And seriously, is the new hand-to-hand combat training they get really necessary to give speeding tickets?

        Just imagine the mission creep here in Alberta, where militias might “assist” police in managing rural crime. It looks like this is just a covert provincial police force in the making.

        Meanwhile in Saskatchewan, better put a reminder in the calendar about expired licence plates, or expect Rambo the highway patrol officer to teach you a lesson you’ll never forget, if you live through it.

        Note to self: fly over Saskatchewan, never drive through it.

      • Carlos says:


        There has been a great shift in some main perspectives in our current society all brought about by the ‘Greed is good’ and ‘The state is not a nanny state’, ;the invisible hand’, ‘society does not exist only individuals. In the last 40 years this has transformed the way we see governments and specially police. Governments are no longer here as our representatives but as the great friends of corporations and businesses. Police is not here to protect citizens anymore. They are here to protect the interests of the higher class and so is the Justice system although this one has been like that for a while longer. So this is the reason we do not see police, we see armies that in many cases treat us as if we are the sinners and that deserve to be talked to as stupid and should be harassed when in protests because we do not know what the hell we are doing. Because most protests these days are against inequality and racism, they just love it. It is a feast and you could easily witness this kind of attitude when that cop jumped from his car and just decided that chief Adam deserved a beating. He was not even there but the rage and his training just took over him. By the way this same guy was charged just recently for force entering a home and assault a woman and he still working and he is still good to go and assault another person. This and other stuff we have witnessed lately just tells you what kind of society we have become and it will be worse if we as citizens do not manage to stop this craziness.

        As far as Jason Kenney and his Circle of Darkness I seriously already feel bad about commenting because I personally cannot believe that we allow this kind of disrespect from a person that is paid by us and works for us- he is nothing, he just as a title and legislative immunity. We do not have just a problem of bad government or of being guided by idiots but we have a serious mental issue due to years of brain washing by these neolithic neo-liberal policies that have changed us into submission. I do not recognize this group of clowns as my government and I am ready for any confrontation with their army and to total civil disobedience. I know I am a bacteria compared to their size but Covid-19 has shown us clearly that size does not matter – strategy does. This kind of neo-liberal/fascist type government is already in a free fall all over the Western World except of course in Alberta where we have a team that only understands one thing – backwardness and serving their lords. They do not even recognize us as citizens because if they did they would be more respectful and would not behave as if they are the chosen ones.

      • CallmeHal, the litany of undemocratic measures Kenney is pushing through boggles the mind, but as long as these measures are being proposed by the UCP, his supporters don’t care. As someone said the other day, if the NDP were slamming these Bills through the Legislature, the UCP would go nuts.
        The AUPE challenge to Bill 1 will likely end up in front of the Supreme Court of Canada, so it will be years before we get our Charter rights back. I suspect many of us will be fined and/or imprisoned under Bill 1 by the time this is over.
        What floors me is how many people are saying the intent of Bill 1 is to prevent protestors from shutting down bridges and pipelines. They clearly haven’t read the Act or given it any thought, which is exactly how authoritarian governments erode democracy, one slippery step at a time. .

  7. carlosbeca says:

    I am sorry I mistyped the word Guy and it is gay in my post.
    I apologize to any gay person that reads this blog – it was not intentional at all

    Thank you

    • Carlos, I just saw your note and fixed the typo. Thank you for pointing it out.

      • Carlos says:

        Thank you for correcting it

        I see that our excellency Jason Kenney is at it again, this time a referendum on a matter that only interests the UCP extremism and cannot be changed. Just fireworks. Instead he could use it to find out what Albertans really think about his policies. For example, his privatization of our parks. Another example his obsession of using our money and invest in lost causes, or even better how many of us support moving the CPP under his control?
        Instead of course and following the absurd waste that has been going on with war rooms and Fair Deal Panels we are going to ask about equalization. I can only imagine what they would have said if Rachel Notley had asked for any referendum at all.
        Only in UCP Alberta


  8. Carlos, to add to the list of money down the drain, yesterday the energy Minister announced the time line for the public inquiry “into the existence of a well-funded foreign campaign aimed at discrediting Alberta’s energy sector – a campaign which is alleged to have robbed the people of Alberta of billions of dollars in lost revenues and thousands of jobs.” would be extended to “allow the commissioner to fairly and justly complete the inquiry process and follow up on the materials discovered to date.” Given the commentary from law professors and others as to the fairness and justness of this inquiry, (namely, there is none) this just adds to the mockery the UCP is making of the rule of law here in Alberta.
    One can’t help but wonder whether the real problem here is the commissioner completed his work, found no evidence supporting “the existence of a well-funded foreign campaign aimed at discrediting Alberta’s energy sector” and Kenney sent him back to the drawing board to find something, anything, to justify Kenney’s ridiculous allegation, let alone the expenditure of $3.5 million on this pointless exercise.

    • Carlos says:

      Susan I fully agree with your last paragraph and i heard on the radio that they injected one more million into it. Another 4.5 million for absolutely no gain and no reason.
      I am really sick with all of this. I seriously have never seen incompetence of this level. It is scary to think what ‘Alberta Advantage’ is going to look like at the end of another 3 years of this disgrace. Still, people justify all of this with a simple ‘better than the socialists constantly getting their hands in our pockets’. They are being snake oiled right before their eyes and very little changes. A very strong sign that these people are completely brains-washed with crap. It is not frustrating anymore, it is depressing. All the work that so many people do in order to make this province a decent place to live and raise a family to no objective other than this Circus of Illiteracy. Thinking that this man is one of the most respected Conservatives (fascists) in Canada along with serpent Harper is absurd and tells us what conservatism has come to. The only good news is that all of this is a House of Cards and it is already in great peril in the US but the fallout will not be repaired in my generation.

    • jerrymacgp says:

      Wouldn’t it have been nice when we were all in school, if we’d gotten a $1 million reward for not getting our homework done on time … [high school, grad school, law school, whatever applies to the reader]

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