Members of Toronto’s Black communities are hopeful about the recommendations in a newly-released draft action-plan to tackle anti-Black racism in the city, but many say just how to implement those ideas remains to be seen.
On Saturday afternoon, the city presented the draft — developed out of some 41 community conversations held between January and March of this year — at City Hall for feedback from the city’s Black community leaders and members. All in all, the city says, more than 800 people played a role in developing the plan.
“Our communities are lagging behind on a number of those socioeconomic indicators,” Amanual Melles of the African-Canadian Social Development Council told CBC Toronto. “I think there’s a good momentum, there’s committed leadership, the time seems to be right, we’re engaged in this process and I’m optimistic.”
The draft plan focuses on five key areas — each with tangible action items attached — which will be finalized before heading to the executive committee in June, followed by city council in July.
Tangible actions attached to 5 key areas
The five areas are:
- Children and youth development, which includes increasing the number of “culturally appropriate” before and after school programs, increasing hiring of Black people, expanding resources for Black queer service providers and communicating with the province and school boards about the need for improvements to support safe learning.
- Community engagement and Black leadership, which includes applying an “anti-Black racism lens” to the city’s complaint process, providing an incubation space for Black businesses and investing in Black arts and culture.
- Health and community supports, which includes improving the availability of mental health services for Black people, increasing the number of permanent Black health and social workers, expanding recreational programming, improving food access, ensuring Black seniors are represented in the city’s seniors strategy, and improving shelter and housing conditions.
- Job opportunities and income supports, which includes increasing the employment and training opportunities for Black people at the city of Toronto, providing mentorship programs, promoting inclusive and equitable hiring practices and continuing to call on the province to raise social assistance rates.
- Policing and the justice system, which includes measures to stop racial profiling and the “over-policing” of Black people, reviewing use of force protocols, collect and publicly report mandatory race-based data, and making information about policing and the criminal justice system better available.
‘Waiting to see what the commitment is’
Black Lives Matter Toronto member Ravyn Wngz says she sees little in the draft report that she objects to. Instead, she wonders about how the city plans to implement the measures and who is left accountable if they don’t become reality.
“You can have the policies and the language and all of the information. John Tory already said it’s been 40 years of information and so I’m sure in that time people have given recommendations before… so I’m really wanting to see what the commitment is to these recommendations to make sure Black communities, Black people can have the spaces that they need for themselves to grow and expand and to be in control of our own lives,” Wngz said.
BLM Toronto was not involved in the consultations, she added, largely because the organization wanted those who have been working on these issues for much longer than the approximately three-year-old organization to take the lead.
The city’s director of social policy analysis Denise Andrea Campbell said Saturday’s consultation was an opportunity to ask Toronto’s Black communities, “Did we get it right?”
While Campbell wouldn’t speak to BLM’s absence from the consultations, she acknowledged the organization was instrumental in prompting a conversation about anti-Black racism in the city, adding it was invited to participate throughout the process.
“Certainly we’re here in part today because they challenged governments to pay attention to the very real things that communities need,” she said.
For now, Wngz remains cautiously optimistic.
“What I’m really hopeful for is that the entire city will hold John Tory and all of Toronto city councillors accountable,” she said. “When one community is lifted up, all communities are lifted up and that’s what we’re looking for.”
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