News / Toronto

Campaign looks to tackle 'particular anti-blackness' in Toronto

OCASI's poster campaign follows similar one earlier this year that addressed issues of Islamophobia

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As a black woman, Debbie Douglas can’t count the number of times she walks into a store to look for something, only to be told it’s too expensive for her.

The executive director of Ontario Council for Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI) has also heard stories of people avoiding to sit next to a black passenger on transit, or women clinging to their purses as soon as a black man walks into an elevator.

“We have been very good at fooling ourselves into believing that racism against black people does not exist in Canada,” said Douglas, who works as executive director of Ontario Council for Agencies Serving Immigrants (OCASI). “But I don’t think there’s any other race here in Canada where police will stop you simply because of how you look like.”

A new campaign is aiming to change the trend. In collaboration with the City of Toronto, Douglas’ group hopes the Toronto For all initiative can spark conversations about living together and giving everyone equal treatment.

“Even when you look at it through the gender lenses, black working women make 15 per cent less than white women,” she said. “It’s a big problem. There’s a particular anti-blackness that exists, specifically here in Toronto, and we need solid policies for change.”

Earlier this year, OCASI launched a similar anti-Islamophobia campaign, following attacks on Muslim women wearing hijabs and negative comments about Syrian refugees.

Since then, people have become more vocal about confronting Islamophobia, said Farheen Khan, an activist in the local Muslim community.

“I mean, walking on the streets wearing a hijab I still feel a little bit of hostility, but I applaud OCASI for doing that campaign,” she said. “It’s an ongoing struggle, and there’s still a lot of work to be done.”

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