Anti-Racism Directorate Conference

December 1, 2017

“Moving Forward – Challenging Power and Privilege through Anti-Racism Leadership
Toronto – December 1, 2017


Report prepared by Rebecca Johnson

Diversity Thunder Bay Members attending the meeting: 
Ellen Chambers, Rebecca Johnson, Moffat Makuto, Brenda Reimer

Quotes worth remembering from the Conference:

  • Without vision we will never be more than we are.
  • We are all “change” leaders.    It is responsibility of each of us to make change – no matter the culture or the background.
  • Identify barriers – look at policies that impact racism – tackle policies – make change
  • Change the narrative
  • Focus on strengths – celebrate success
  • Learn from youth
  • Need data
  • Believe in Human Rights
  • Education is the future
  • Conversations are needed now
  • Who is going to stand up and say the organizations working on anti-racism are important?
  • Talk to larger society
  • How do we educate our children about inclusion?
  • What does Canada represent to all of us?

Michael Coteau , Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism and Minister of Children and Youth Services opened the Conference telling the gathering that the Anti-Racism work (through the Ontario’s 3-Year Anti-Racism Strategic Plan – A Better Way Forward) now has the back-up of legislation.    Standards are being set in five areas:   Policy, Research and Evaluation; Sustainability and Accountability; Public Education and Awareness; Community Collaboration and Population-Specific Anti-Racism Initiatives.    The Province now has a framework to work on systemic racism.    More work has yet to be done but the tone in the Province of Ontario has to change.    Who is prepared to take on the challenges and make changes knowing there is a cost.     Minister Coteau noted that approximately 350 were in attendance at the conference from across the Province and country.

Steve Orsini , Secretary to the Cabinet , made a presentation on the Ontario Public Service’s Anti-Racism Journey.    I have attached his power point presentation to the email that was sent out with this report.   He graciously forwarded to me after I requested it from him.     Some of the information generated through the 36,000 public service employees could be taken into consideration when the City of Thunder Bay undertakes their equity survey.

General Comments by various Speakers throughout the day

  • We need to change the education system – start in kindergarten to change the message
  • We have a system problem – need to learn how to navigate the system
  • We are currently failing with   youth – need to address and involve the youth
  • There is an increase in the number of indigenous individuals being incarcerated that must be addressed and a failure in institutions to address these issues.    There is a growing recognition of acceptance of gross disparities related to police contacts with various groups and a bias in the justice system
  • Employment sector must be looked at for hiring blacks, indigenous and other minorities and disabilities
  • How to change – invite people of all cultures to the table – have meaningful relationships and conversations that are relevant
  • Identify barriers – look at policies that impact racism.    Change policies
  • Evaluate what you are doing and how you are doing
  • What changes are we making to see a better future?
  • Hold public discourses
  • Most important to have data – to have race based data collected and then analyzed
  • Connection between police, schools and the larger community – must be improved and expanded
  • The priority for addressing systemic racism:      Education – 58%; Justice system – 23%; Child Welfare – 14% and Others – 5%

Hate Crime Workshop

Amira Elghawaby , Journalist & Human Rights Advocate provided information from Stats Canada regarding hate crimes. You can scroll down to find the information on culture, religion, etc. She noted that the majority of perpetrators are under the age of 18.    On-line social media has increased the platform for hate. Governments are not where they need to be to address these issues. Two-thirds of hate crimes go unreported with barriers identified as having to go to a police station or having a police car come to your house. There is discussion about having a report line developed. The increase in on-line hate language has increased 600%.

 Ricky Veerappan , Superintendent, Community Services, York Regional Police Services noted that 75% of people who live in Markham were born outside of Canada. Diversity is great but now world issues have become local issues. Relationship building and celebrating diversity is crucial to resolve some of the outstanding issues. We have to protect the community with human rights. No longer use the term hate crime but instead call it diversity and human rights. Need to stop name calling and racial slurs at the beginning of a discussion. Goal is to move the community towards peaceful co-existence. Think with a global mind set and build social cohesion. If progress is wanted then have to take a leadership role.

Morris Abar , former Deputy Minister, Ministry of Correctional Services, former President and CEO of the United Jewish Appeal talked about issues related to Holocaust survivors and how difficult it is to deal with on-line hate language. Immigrants fear they will be deported if they report hate crimes and also don’t know how or that they can.

Personal Comments:

The Conference was well worth attending. There were about 20 people from Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario at the Conference. There were 40 speakers throughout the day. We had plenary sessions for most of the time and separated into four workshops in the afternoon:   Hate Crimes on The Rise; The Power of Media; Systemic Barriers in Schools and Justice and Systemic Racism. I attended the Hate Crimes on the Rise Workshop. I know that the Media and the Schools workshops were attended by individuals in Thunder Bay. I learned a great deal from the day’s event. A lot of discussion about black issues – didn’t realize the extent of this situation in southern Ontario. Little was spoken about anti-Semitism which individuals raised as did we from the North about the lack of Indigenous focus at the Conference. We promote ‘respect’ in all we do but the province and those attending talk about believing in Human Rights. A different perspective but the same message. I made copious notes at the Conference and happy to share if requested. Met and have already connected with a number of individuals attending the conference who are working on anti-racism issues. I asked the Directorate to forward hard copies of their 3-Year Plan to the City so that they can be provided upon request. Again, it was worth being in attendance. No real solution but there is a plan and the conversation has started at the Provincial level. Most important is that there is a commitment to change.