Scarborough residents cite racist experiences at anti-racism forum

Attendees line up at two microphones to voice their concerns and opinions to minister Coteau and other representatives.
Attendees line up at two microphones to voice their concerns and opinions to minister Coteau at anti-racism forum.

A GTA resident says police and social workers have discriminated against her and she wants to see more unity between Black Lives Matter Toronto and the anti-racism directorate.

Cora Reid, a reggae artist from Bowmanville, Ont., spoke Wednesday evening at the provincial government’s anti-racism directorate forum in Scarborough. This was the fourth such meeting facilitated by MPP Michael Coteau, Ontario minister responsible for anti-racism.

Reid told the audience and representatives about discrimination she said she has faced from public employees following her divorce.

“I am a black woman who has experienced anti-black racism; being arrested by the Durham police for no reason, no cause,” Reid said. “(I am) divorced from a man who is white. And as a result of his white privilege, I have had to experience intense racism.”

“I also experienced anti-black racism in college, where I was told I was too black to be visible; in a school room,” she added.

MPP Michael Coteau, minister responsible for anti-racism, addresses the audience on the nature and goals of the directorate. He says “anti-racism should be everyone’s business.”
MPP Michael Coteau, minister responsible for anti-racism, addresses the audience on the nature and goals of the directorate. He says, “Anti-racism should be everyone’s business.”

When asked about the accusations Reid made, Michael Coteau was sympathetic.

“Systemic racism hurts; it’s personal,” he said. “It affects communities in different ways. Not just one or two communities, but many in Ontario.”

Jean-Marie Dixon, a lawyer with Ministry of the Attorney General, said anti-black racism is rampant in her workplace.

“If you speak out about racism in the (Ontario Public Service), you are going to be met with denial, anger, marginalization, retaliation, punishment, suspension and even firing,” Dixon said.

“How can the directorate make changes?” she asked.

Dixon later said, “(Racism) affects every aspect (of my work); whether it’s file assignments, body language, facial language, things that are said to you; not being permitted to talk about your experiences.”

“There’s a lot more,” she added.

When asked what stood out from Scarborough residents’ concerns expressed at the forum, Coteau said, “We heard about racism in education, in health care, in the OPS itself; and a lot of recommendations to look inwards.”

Several speakers, including Cora Reid, said they want to see more involvement from Black Lives Matter Toronto at the anti-racism directorate.

“They are speaking to the issues of community,” Reid said. “They are making an impact.”

The next directorate meeting will be held Oct. 15 in Sudbury, Ont.