Vancouver, B.C.

Filipino professor laments racism despite multiculturalism

By Ted Alcuitas

A Filipino professor whose research includes queer of colour geographies says racism is still very much alive in Canada despite multiculturalism.

“There is this self-congratulatory idea that multiculturalism has solved racial issues, that racism doesn’t exist because we’re a multicultural nation,” Dr. John Paul Catungal told the Vancouver Sun in an interview.

Dr. John Paul Catungal completed his PhD in Geography at the University of Toronto and is an instructor in Critical Race and Ethnic Studies with UBC’s Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice. His research interests include the politics of emotions, embodiment and positionalities in teaching and learning spaces; queer of colour geographies; and Filipino-Canadian studies.

Catungal, who is a queer first-generation Filipino-Canadian, says he agrees with the issues raised by fellow activists in the LGBTQ community who believes they are excluded in the mainstream Pride community.

“We need to look at the boards of LGBTQ organizations and whether or not they represent the demographic diversity, the class, the gender diversity of our communities,” he told The Vancouver Sun.

Catungal believes there’s been too much focus on what Black Lives Movement (BLM) says about police and not enough focus on the issues they raise about discrimination and representation in Vancouver. BLM temporarily disrupted Toronto’s Pride parade earlier this summer demanding that police should not be allowed to participate in the parade.

“There are many topics that need to be addressed more openly,” he said, “including racism in the gay dating scene and the alarming frequency of violence against trans women of colour.”

While applauding his fellow activists’ bravery in raising concerns about racism in Canada, Catungal warns that the consequences of pretending race isn’t an issue can be devastating.

For Catungal’s PhD research, he studied how many Toronto HIV/AIDS organizations during the ’80s and ’90s failed to represent a range of racial and cultural groups in their brochures, hiring practices and outreach strategies.

“That affected the accessibility of mainstream forms of AIDS services, and that had life-and-death consequences for folks of colour,” he said.

BLM’s Vancouver chapter wrote an open letter earlier this month asking the Vancouver police to agree to a reduced presence in the parade, and for the Vancouver Pride Society to take “concrete action” to be more inclusive of black people, First Nations people and other people of colour. Vancouver police did march in this year’s Pride Parade but in a very reduced numbers and no armoured vehicle ‘float’.

BLM Vancouver did not participate in the parade as did other groups who supported their cause.

Pinoy Pride, the Filipino community’s gay organization and Migrante Vancouver, marched in the parade.