October 4, 2016 / Toronto / On this day of Sisters in Spirit Vigils held across the country to honour missing and murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change (COP – COC) launched a legislative framework that it has proposed to the Ontario Government, in order to support and strengthen the mandate of the Anti-Racism Directorate (ARD).
Earlier this year, Premier Wynne announced the establishment of the ARD and named the Honourable Michael Coteau as the Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism. Since then, the Directorate has conducted three public consultation meetings in Toronto, Hamilton and Mississauga. The fourth is scheduled for October 5, 2016 in Scarborough.
While Premier Wynne and Minister Coteau have made a public commitment to address racism in all its forms – stated in the ARD Mandate Letter as “Combat Systemic Racism Including, but Not Limited to, Indigenous Racism, Anti-Black Racism and Islamophobia”– the Government has not yet released any concrete strategy nor has it developed the necessary statutory framework to support the work of the Directorate.
Working in partnership with a number of anti-racism advocacy groups, COP-COC is putting forward proposed legislation for the ARD. Entitled An Act respecting Anti-Racism in Ontario, the community coalition proposed legislation requires the Ontario Government to:
- Develop a public Anti-Racism Strategy with specific, objective and measurable targets aimed at addressing systemic racism in the province;
- Review and revise the Anti-Racism Strategy at least once every five years;
- Consult with racialized communities and community groups on the Anti-Racism Strategy
- Make it mandatory for all ministries, offices, agencies, boards, commissions and corporations to collect ethno-racially disaggregated data, and to conduct regular audits to report on whether their targets are being met
The Anti-Racism Strategy must also recognize the differential impact of racism as experienced by different racialized communities, and must contain specific goals and consultation plans with respect to Indigenous and Black communities.
At today’s press conference, members of the COP – COC Steering Committee and Network spoke about racialized communities’ experience with systemic and institutional racism. They also mentioned specific examples of anti-Black racism as well as growing Islamaphobia and intolerance, including recent acts of vandalism of Mosques and attacks on Muslim women in hijab.
“Embedding the Anti-Racism Directorate in law would ensure its sustainability and longevity, and is a critical first step” said Shalini Konanur, Executive Director of South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario.
“When the Ontario Government made poverty reduction a priority, it did so by releasing a comprehensive Poverty Reduction Strategy, along with the Poverty Reduction Act which set out the fundamental principles to guide the Government’s actions in reducing poverty,” said Avvy Go, Clinic Director of Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic. “But when it comes to combatting racism, there is no plan, no strategy, and no law,” she added.
Another speaker highlighted the importance of adequately resourcing the Anti-Racism Directorate to ensure that it can carry out its work.
“We are disappointed that that Anti-Racism Directorate was given only a $5 million budget,” said Debbie Douglas, Executive Director of OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants. “Like initiatives such as the Ontario Women’s Directorate and the Seniors Secretariat are better resourced. We expect the province to make a similar investment in the Anti-Racism Directorate.
“These issues are deep-rooted, deep-seated and very complex. Institutional racism affects every aspect of health, well-being and more, and Black communities are over-represented among those who experience the impact,” said Liben Gebremikael, Executive Director of TAIBU Community Health Centre. “The proposed legislative framework will give community organizations a way to hold government accountable, and in turn let us remain accountable to our communities” he added.
“Having an Anti-Racism Directorate with teeth that can focus on systemic issues is important. At this juncture, it is no longer okay to turn a blind eye to racism,” said Denise Brooks, Executive Director of Hamilton Urban Core Community Health Centre. “Hamilton has a high level of poverty. Those who are racialized are over-represented in those numbers. If anti-racism is so important, why doesn’t the province do the same work as it did around enacting and implementing the Disabilities Act?” she added.
COP-COC and its partners call on the Government of Ontario to pass the proposed legislation, to adopt a strategy with a concrete plan, and to increase the budget allocated to the Anti-Racism Directorate.
COP-COC is a province-wide initiative made up of individuals, groups and organizations working to build community-based capacity to address the growing racialization of poverty – for both First Peoples and peoples of colour – and the resulting increased levels of social exclusion and marginalization of racialized communities across Ontario.
View the COP-COC proposed legislation here: http://ocasi.org/proposed-anti-racism-act-ontario
For more information, please contact:
Avvy Go – Clinic Director, Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
Amy Casipullai – Senior Coordinator, Policy & Communications, OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants