09/18/2015 17:14 EDT | Updated 09/18/2016 01:12 EDT

Winnipeg mayor hopes summit on fighting racism will produce tangible results

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman says a two-day summit won't end racism in his city, but is an important starting point.

Bowman organized the Mayor's National Summit on Racial Inclusion after Maclean's magazine labelled Winnipeg the most racist city in Canada in a cover story earlier this year.

The meeting heard from people who have experienced racism.

An indigenous panellist said her young son was called a "stupid Indian" by classmates, while a Muslim woman said people look at her like she is an alien because of her hijab.

The conference also heard from a public opinion researcher that attitudes are changing and progress is being made.

Bowman says the move to fight racism is a long journey and he plans to issue public reports, starting next January, on what specific steps are being taken.

"One of the big takeaways for me is a reaffirmation of how much people give a damn," Bowman told the crowd in his closing remarks.

"You're all here. You've been sitting here all day, ... that really does embolden us to continue down the path we're on."

Winnipeg has come under a harsh spotlight numerous times. Brian Sinclair, an aboriginal double-amputee, died during a 34-hour wait in a Winnipeg emergency room in 2008 while many assumed he was drunk or homeless rather than someone seeking medical care.

Some have called Winnipeg the epicentre for missing and murdered aboriginal women following the death of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine, whose body was pulled from the Red River wrapped in a bag last year.

And earlier this year, a Winnipeg high school teacher made national headlines when he ranted about aboriginal people on social media, accusing them of being lazy and seeking free money from non-aboriginals.

The Canadian Press