Racism is not an individual problem. When a racist incident occurs, it harms the entire community. Actions that disrupt and de-escalate critical incidents require community members to act in order to prevent and mitigate harm. Rather than being passive witnesses or relying exclusively on the police, being an active witness is a wide-spread community commitment to keep each other safe.
The North Shore Anti-Racism Network has developed a simple 4-step framework as part of the North Shore Racism Response Protocol to support community members to be active witnesses to incidents of racism in the community.
If you or the victim are in immediate danger, please dial 911 immediately.
- Look around to assess the situation – can you help and stay relatively safe? Are there other people around who can also help? Is there a safe exit if needed?
- Make eye contact with the victim and other bystanders so they know you are there.
- Record the incident on your phone only if it is safe to do so and appropriate (for example, if other people are already helping). Respect the privacy of the victim and other bystanders who may be recorded, and only share the video with the victim or relevant authorities.
- After making eye contact with the victim, show solidarity and try to engage them by saying something neutral without escalating the situation, such as “Do you know what time it is?” Keep it brief, simple and use appropriate gestures to ensure understanding.
- Ask people around you for help.
- If there is no immediate danger, check with the victim to see if they want to contact a person of authority and respect their decision.
- Briefly and directly speak out against the behaviour, not the person e.g. “That comment is racist, we don’t tolerate that here” or “That behaviour is hurtful, please stop” (rather than “You are a racist”).
- If the person doesn’t stop or the situation escalates, try to safely leave with the victim.
- If the offender is aggressive or you can’t leave right away, create some safe distance by moving behind a table or chair, or put your hand up with the “stop” gesture to signal you don’t want them to come closer.
- Stay with the victim to make sure they’re okay. Listen if they would like to speak, if possible, provide support in the person’s language of preference. Use calming words and gestures to acknowledge their feelings.
- Suggest resources for reporting and/or recovering from the incident as appropriate. You can find anti-racism resources on the Impact North Shore website.2
- Encourage those impacted to connect with trusted family and friends afterwards, and take the time needed to recover.
It takes learning, practice, and courage to intervene effectively in these types of situations.
It is recommended that organizations and individuals continually develop their skills and confidence to be active witnesses. There are a number of options to explore for continued learning such as:
 This framework developed by the North Shore Anti-Racism Network is a result of the collaboration of community partners and review of multiple other intervention/de-escalation models.
Read the full North Shore Racism Response Protocol here.