10 years after the Ontario government promised to establish an anti-racism directorate, Londoners will get a chance to have their say.
The provincial Liberals passed legislation in 2006 to create the office, but it wasn’t until issues of racism took a high profile in news coverage that the Liberals acted on it.
Londoners will have the chance to share their thoughts on racism in Ontario Friday night and what can be done to end it.
The Anti-Racism Directorate was created in February, since July it has been touring the province holding sessions in different communities.
Michael Coteau is the Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism, he told AM980 they want to open a dialogue with the public.
“We will be asking people to respond to our plan for where we directive should be, but also it’s an opportunity for people to come out and tell us what they think about the state of racism and more specifically how systemic racism is playing a role in Ontario.”
The meeting, which will be held at Wolf Performance Hall, comes only days after London became the first municipality in Canada to call on police to end the controversial practice of street checks.
Council voted unanimously to end carding, but London Police aren’t expected to agree to end the practice unless they’re forced to.
On Tuesday, London Police Chief John Pare spoke at a snap news conference before the city council vote to voice his support for street checks. Pare insists his officers will be “held accountable” for biased interactions.
The vote by London City Council calls on Mayor Matt Brown to present a letter calling for carding to end to the London Police Services Board. Brown will deliver the letter December 14th.
Council doesn’t have any authority to force police to stop the practice, but the police board does. However, the police board sides with the police services on the issue. Board Chair Jeannette Eberhard appeared at Tuesday’s news conference with Pare and said there were no plans to crack down on police.
While the province could end the practice of carding, it decided to introduce new guidelines last spring instead.
The new guidelines from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services require police to issue a receipt to a person who is stopped that includes the officers badge number and name and instructions for contacting the Independent Police Review Director if they have a concern regarding the interaction.
Advocates have called for the receipt to also include the reason why a person was stopped, but earlier this month Pare said police would only meet the minimum requirements of the new guidelines.
Some on council, such as councillors Jesse Helmer and Mo Salih, say they believe the practice of carding is racist while stopping short of calling London Police officers racist.
Carding is likely to be raised as an issue Friday night, but Coteau said there are many examples of systemic racism.
“There are some really interesting and important indicators that are out there around poverty, education, incarceration, employment, the criminal justice system. There are so many different indicators that suggest that there may be some folks from particular groups that are over represented.”
Earlier this year Premier Kathleen Wynne said the focus on issues of racism had sharpened over the past year.
While she believes the government has made gains on the issue, Wynne admitted the debate over street checks and issues faced by Syrian refugees required the discussion must continue.
The Directorate has received some criticism from anti-racism activists who balked at the province committed $5 million and 32 staff this year for the office, saying it wasn’t enough.
Friday’s consultation will be held at the Wolf Performance Hall from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.
(photo courtesy Luca Perini/EyeEm)