With 14 million people, Ontario is rich in diversity, innovation and opportunity. It is estimated that by 2031, 40% of our province’s overall population will be racialized (people of color, as more commonly used in the United States). Diversity is one of the Ontario’s greatest assets–especially in Toronto, the largest, most culturally diverse city in Canada and fourth largest in North America.
Despite this, Indigenous, Black and other racialized people continue to face the barriers of systemic racism every day. Social movements in Ontario like Black Lives Matter, Idle No More and other community voices have helped advance social justice and bring racial equity into popular culture. Their advocacy is supported by decades of expert recommendations and evidence that highlight systemic racism in government institutions.
It was in the spirit of acknowledging these issues, and the commitment to address them, that the Anti-Racism Directorate (ARD) was established on Feb. 16, 2016. Honorable Member of Provincial Parliament Michael Coteau was appointed as the Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism.
A Better Way Forward: Ontario’s 3-Year Anti-Racism Strategic Plan
In 2017, Ontario launched A Better Way Forward: Ontario’s 3-Year Anti-Racism Strategic Plan. It’s a comprehensive plan that lays out the province’s commitment to target systemic racism in government policies, decisions and programs.
A key component of the plan is the proposed Anti-Racism Act. If passed, the Act would create a legislative framework for Ontario’s anti-racism work and position us as a leader in working toward racial equity for all.
- It would embed the Anti-Racism Directorate into law, to ensure the future of Ontario’s anti-racism work beyond political cycles
- It allows for the collection of race-based data. We need a reliable and consistent data collection standard for government organizations to be able to address potential racial inequities in public sector policies and services. We’ll be piloting a Race Data Collection Framework and Guidelines this year.
- It is supported by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario and provides high privacy standards for the protection of personal information. The proposed legislation includes an oversight role for the Commissioner.
- It allows government to mandate the use of an anti-racism impact assessment framework (similar to a racial equity impact assessment) by government organizations to prevent and mitigate systemic racism in our policies, programs and services. This framework would help us anticipate and remove unconscious bias in public services and policies by assessing whether they are leading to racial inequities, establishing measurable targets and creating renewable multi-year strategic plans.
- It would require government to engage with communities on the development of future anti-racism strategies, and it requires public reporting on the strategy. Being open and transparent about our work is important to us, and we’ll include public reporting and meaningful engagement and collaboration with Indigenous and racialized communities to inform government decision-making going forward.
Hearing from the public on A Better Way Forward
Community consultation and collaboration were key to developing this strategy. In ARD’s inaugural year, we held 10 public community meetings across the province where we heard powerful stories about the devastating impact that systemic racism can have on people’s lives. The first meeting drew almost 1,000 people, and was followed by nine other meetings across the province. We have drawn on the stories and solutions proposed in these meetings and are transforming them into action.
The meetings made it clear that talking about race is hard, but experiencing racism is even harder. People who took the microphone expressed sadness, frustration, anger, passion and hope, and spoke about the way histories of colonization and racism continue to shape the present and future. Other major areas of concern have been street checks, or, “carding” – akin, to the controversial practice of stop-and-frisk in the U.S. – and the disproportionate outcomes faced by Indigenous and racialized people in the education, justice and child welfare systems.
While A Better Way Forward and our proposed legislation have been a year in the making since the ARD was established, the anti-racism work which informs this legislation has been ongoing. In Ontario, anti-racism initiatives have been moving forward thanks to the tireless work of community leaders, activists and academics who helped ripen the climate for an Anti-Racism Directorate and a strategic plan to eliminate systemic racism. Ontario plans on continuing to work with these community leaders, who can help inform our path forward.
While the journey toward racial equity is far from over, A Better Way Forward is one of the important steps along the way.
For more information, visit the Anti-Racism Directorate’s website, or read the digital version of A Better Way Forward: Ontario’s 3-Year Anti-Racism Strategic Plan (summaries available in 27 languages).
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