The following was delivered in the Legislature as a Member's Statement by Leader of the Official Opposition, Peter Bevan-Baker, on March 30, 2021.
I often stand in this House and speak about what a warm and welcoming province we live in. Every day I wake up feeling such gratitude that I live on this beautiful Island, filled with people from all backgrounds and walks of life, who love this province as much as me.
When I walk into the Legislature, I’m aware of the immense privilege I carry as one of 27 people who get to represent our province, and the people who live here. But I am also aware of the immense privilege I carry every day as a white man, and the benefits and opportunities I have been awarded simply because of that.
Because while it is true we live in a province filled with kind and welcoming people, it is also true that our province has a long history of discrimination, xenophobia, and racism. From the moment that white settlers arrived on these shores, colonizing Epekwitk, our Island has been steeped in white supremacy, genocide and violence against Black, Indigenous, and people of colour.
This insidious part of our history certainly does not end with the arrival of white settlers. Since then, racism and white surpremacy have persisted -- in our relationship with the first peoples of this land, in the treatment of Black Islanders and the historical erasure of The Bog, in the racism towards Lebanese immigrants in the 50s and 60s, and most recently in the rise of anti-Asian sentiment as our province welcomes more and more immigrants from around the world.
This is a part of who we are, an undeniable, shameful and difficult part. But it doesn’t have to be who we become, it doesn’t have to define the Island we build - together.
Mr, Speaker, we must call out xenophobia whenever we see it, no matter who extolls it. A realistic telling of our Island history, where we acknowledge the painful along with the joyful, and where we de-centre white men, who have always been the storytellers of our past, will set us on the course for a better future.
Aside from the Mi’kmaq people, we are all immigrants to this Island - whether we came here six generations ago or six days ago. If we want to live up to the claims that we love and wish to protect this Island, that means including and protecting EVERYONE who calls this place home. A truly rich Island means welcoming a diversity of voices and experiences, where our culture is reflective and inclusive of all its people.
Our Island culture has always been a living, dynamic and ever-changing entity. That’s precisely what makes it such a special place to live.
I call upon my colleagues in this House to join me in using the power and responsibility trusted to us by Islanders to play our part, to call out hateful language and exclusionary tactics, and to amplify the voices of the BIPOC community on PEI. We can and we must do better. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.