Ontario and Toronto’s anti-black racism plans ready for action

Hoping to improve the lives of 200,000 African-Canadians in Toronto

With the blessing of Mayor John Tory, Toronto can expect a new anti-black racism plan to take affect early this year.

Part of a longer five-year campaign, it will aim at highlighting actions that will help alleviate racism within the municipal government of Canada’s largest city. Initially introduced by the Mayor’s executive committee on Nov. 28, 2017, the plan was later discussed at the December 2017 city council meeting.

In the background report, Tory recognizes racism against black people is alive and well in Toronto.

“I believe this is an important statement for the Mayor of Toronto to make, as we strive for inclusion and to live by our values as the most diverse city in the world,” Tory writes. With over 200,000 African-Canadians living in Toronto, and 85 per cent of hate crimes perpetrated against black Torontonians, the mayor believes the plan stands to improve many lives.

Toronto’s plan comes on the heels of one proposed by the ruling Ontario Liberals: a three-year anti-racism strategic plan. Spearheaded by the minister responsible for anti-racism, Michael Coteau, the plans work in tandem to accomplish the same goal. The inspiration, according to Coteau, was Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Photo of Minister Michael Coteau (Government of Ontario)

“The premier, for the last few years, has always been talking about ways to combat systemic racism, and looking for [new] ways to do that. While at an event that celebrates woman in politics, she made a commitment to look for a way to bring forward [strategies] that would fight racism in Toronto…[this plan is] 100 per cent coming from the premier’s reflection of what the province needs,” he said in an interview.

Coteau, who is Minister of Children and Youth Services, is convinced that it is vital to get young people’s input in the matter.

“The number one thing heard from people when asked what we should be doing differently is that we need to spend a lot of time talking to young people about the negative aspects of racism. The educational awareness campaign to target young people [is effective] because we know we will have the biggest impact possible by feeding into the young people.”

Janelle Newson, a Toronto student of colour, feels the move can’t come sooner.

“With Toronto and Canada as a whole being so multicultural for so long, it’s crazy that we are only just looking at these kinds of legislations now. I’m interested to see if they actually do anything,” she said.

After much prep work, the City of Toronto’s anti-black racism plan is already working through a multi-step process to ensure a smooth launch. First came the Toronto For All campaign in Nov. 2016, which addressed anti-black sentiments in public education. Phase 2 grew to include the analysis of existing reports on racism in the city, which had been written over the past four decades. Community meetings, in tandem with community organizations, surveyed over 800 people on their personal experiences. The final product is made up of five key points:

  1. Children & Youth Development
  2. Health & Community Services
  3. Job Opportunities & Income Supports
  4. Policing & The Justice System
  5. Community Engagement & Black Leadership

You can read the entire Ontario action plan here, and the Toronto action plan here.