Toronto city staff seek $1M in funding to confront 'deeply entrenched' anti-Black racism
While one community leader says the five-year action plan 'has potential for real impact,' another worries the city is just 'throwing money at the problem.'
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Toronto city staff is asking for nearly $1 million next year to address a “legacy of anti-Black racism” through initiatives ranging from an internship program for Black youth to a mandatory learning program for law enforcement.
Staff developed the five-year action plan to “confront anti-Black racism” by partnering with 18 community agencies and hearing from more than 800 of Toronto’s 200,000 Black residents.
It follows the release of a draft action plan last May and will go to executive committee next week. If passed by the committee it will be considered by city council Dec. 4.
“Anti-Black racism is deeply entrenched in Canadian institutions, policies and practices, often making this particular form of racism appear normal or invisible to the larger society,” the report said.
“The ongoing reality of anti-Black racism in Toronto stands as an obstacle to a truly fair and just city.”
The action plan proposes using $460,000 to hire five staff members and $535,000 to implement 14 of the 80 actions in 2018, addressing children and youth development, health and community services, job and income supports, policing and justice, and community engagement and Black leadership. Those 14 actions include:
- Developing an anti-Black racism unit to implement the action plan
- Delivering a mandatory program for city staff and law enforcement officers to learn how they can better serve Black residents
- Starting a Black youth internship initiative with two paid positions at the City of Toronto
- Building a talent bank of Black Toronto residents for opportunities at city agencies
Among the actions not prioritized for 2018 is reviewing Toronto Police Service’s decision to keep previously collected carding data.
“The legacy of anti-Black racism lies in the current social, economic and political marginalization of Torontonians of African descent,” said the report.
Black residents experience racism as a lack of opportunities, poor health and education outcomes, significant poverty and an overrepresentation in the criminal justice, mental health and child welfare systems, said the report.
Toronto’s Black residents are targeted in 85 per cent of racially motivated hate crimes and experience 27 per cent of all carding incidents, according to the report. Meanwhile, 23 per cent of Black students leave high school early (compared to 12 per cent of white students) and Black Toronto residents experience a 13 per cent unemployment rate, nearly two times the provincial average.
Kofi Hope, executive director of Careers Education Empowerment Centre for Young Black Professionals, took part in developing the action plan and said it “has potential for real impact. Overall, I think it is very concrete and tangible and the city is leading the way.”
His organization works with Black youth to develop skills and address root causes of precarious employment.
“In the action plan, there’s a want to support the programming that we do,” he said. “And to take a hard look at hiring practices within the city and how representative departments are, from elite positions to entry-level jobs.”
The type of racism the Black community experiences is often not overt, but rather unconscious bias, he said.
“We can have all the education in the world, but still face barriers at a systemic level,” Hope said.
Black Lives Matter Toronto member LeRoi Newbold said her organization is concerned the city is “throwing money at the problem” and “checking off boxes” rather than investing in long-term solutions.
Black Lives Matter, which did not participate in drafting the action plan, would have liked to see the city help grassroots organizations secure funding for leases, year round costs and permanent staffing, said Newbold.
“We have to remain vigilant because the city’s track record on addressing Black problems isn’t strong,” Newbold said. “How effective this action plan is really depends on if the community is respected.”
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