Ms McPherson: Thank you, Madam Speaker. It really is an honour to stand up this afternoon and speak to Bill 206, the Societies (Preventing the Promotion of Hate) Amendment Act, 2018. The intent of the bill, to prevent the establishment of hate organizations, is laudable. I want to acknowledge the Member for Calgary-Klein, my neighbour in north-central Calgary, for bringing forward this bill. As private members we don’t have a lot of opportunity to bring forward any policy directly to the House, and it’s really commendable that he’s using this opportunity to address the very upsetting and distasteful subject of racism. We certainly don’t need to embolden hate groups by allowing them to create societies for racism or to give them assistance in organizing. By not allowing them to incorporate, the bill reduces access to banking services, public funding sources, and the legitimacy that some of them seek to spread their hate in Alberta.
[The Speaker in the chair]
One of my constituency staff members, Saima Jamal, has worked for decades to overcome racism and hate in Calgary and in the province. As an antiracism activist she knows how pernicious racism is in Calgary, with followers of groups like the Alberta Three Percenters, Soldiers of Odin, and Polish priest Jacek Miedlar claiming their racism loudly and proudly in Calgary. She’s told me about the impact this hatred has on the communities she works with. Their actions make it explicitly clear that not everyone thinks racism is awful and that hateful individuals have gained more of a foothold in Alberta.
In the ’90s I worked for Shell Nigeria in Calgary, and our workplace was very diverse. Most of my colleagues came from Nigeria while some were from England and the Caribbean. I was enlightened about racism by my colleagues. I grew up in a small town in northern Alberta, and at that time most of the faces I saw in school and on the streets in my town looked a lot like me. I was privileged to live so long and not see much racism. But they told me that racism in the U.S. was much easier to identify because it was overt. They knew who the racists were.
Racism has been deeply embedded in parts of Alberta culture for a long time, but it was mostly hidden. Recently, however, people who hold racist views have been emboldened by the normalization of intolerance in the political discourse, mostly in the U.S., and on social media. The experience and negative impacts on the tens of thousands of Albertans who experience racism and hate in public, at work, online, and in the receipt of services speaks to the urgent need to address casual and systemic racism in Alberta. We must be active. We cannot be complacent on racism. As elected members of this Assembly it is incumbent on all of us to moderate our social media pages and remove any intolerant or racist comments. Homophobia, misogyny, sexism, and racism cannot remain unchallenged because to do so is to implicitly approve of them. The Alberta Party stands resolute in our commitment to challenge and remove any intolerant or racist comments on social media.
The bill is a good move in challenging hatred, but I would like to see it go further. There are some limitations with the bill, including a gap in the practical ability of the registrar to enforce its provisions. Existing societies currently receive very little oversight from the registrar about their activities as long as their paperwork is filed regularly. I’d be curious to know if or how the registrar can ensure that Alberta’s over 58,000 existing incorporated societies do not have hateful objects or practices or that their actions under apparently benevolent objects are carried out in inclusive, nonracist, and nonhateful ways.
Despite decades of work the memberships and boards and clients of Alberta’s 58,000-plus nonprofits do not consistently represent Alberta’s diversity. This bill as it stands doesn’t address existing embedded racism experienced by Albertans from nonprofit societies. How will the registrar address groups that try to incorporate by simply hiding their racist intentions under benign-appearing objectives? How many Albertans who are members of societies actually read society bylaws or objects? I believe the bill could be made better and more effective than in its current form by being informed by lived experiences.
I’m happy to support passing second reading of Bill 206. I look forward to discussing and improving this bill in debate, and I certainly urge all of my colleagues to support this bill as well.