NFU joins chorus to end systemic racism

OPINION – The National Farmers Union (NFU) joins with all who call for an end to systemic racism, including police violence against Black, Indigenous, and people of colour, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by Minnesota police officers on May 25. His death has, once again, highlighted the racism and white supremacy entrenched in systems across the continent. Along with millions across the USA, Canada and elsewhere, we are committed to dismantling the structures, values, and practices that carry out, tolerate or benefit from racist policies and actions, whether by governments or non-government actors.

The NFU’s founding Statement of Purpose, written in 1969 in the wake of the Civil Rights movement, says: “the common hope and aspiration of us all is that the creative power farmers possess may be a blessing to humanity and not a curse. It is our hope and aspiration that our families may live in dignity and prosperity – that we may, as farmers, live in harmony with one another and that all the world’s people may live in peace.”

The peace we seek must have a foundation of justice.

We are horrified by police cruelty and violence against demonstrators south of the border, and the spectre of further militarization and repression there. We also recognize that the violence of racism is not limited to the USA.  It is found in cities, towns and rural areas across our country too, and is not limited to police brutality. Systemic racism affects how our society is structured, who has power, and what kinds of opportunities people have access to.

“We understand that despite the fact that white farmers may not experience economic privilege, and that farming is a hard life, our lives and careers are not made more difficult or dangerous because of the colour of our skin,” NFU President, Woodlawn’s Katie Ward, said.
“Race-based conflicts are often promoted and provoked by the powerful who benefit from keeping people divided, fighting each other instead of working together in solidarity,” , NFU youth vice president Jessie MacInnis said. “As a majority white organization, we as the National Farmers Union acknowledge our past failures in acting as allies to Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour in food-producing communities. We are committed to building processes to unpack racism in our leadership and wider membership to better work in solidarity with communities of colour to build food sovereignty for all. This will not be easy, but is long overdue.”

“Here in Canada, in our homes, on our farms, in our rural communities and in the food system, we can work to challenge and dismantle systemic racism,” NFU board member Ayla Fenton said. “We can start by listening to and learning from Black people.”

“We know that Canada will be better without systemic racism, and that change is possible,” Ward said. “We will hold ourselves accountable in the NFU to ensure that this statement is not stagnant in this moment of time, but a launch pad for renewed effort to take anti-racism actions in our organization.”

If you want to join us in learning more about the lived experiences of Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour in Canada (BIPOC), and additionally what BIPOC farmers of colour face, check out: