Citizens Invited to City Hall to Assist in Refining Toronto for All Action Plan

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Photo by Jelani Grant

BY: JELANI GRANT

The City of Toronto held a panel at City Hall regarding TorontoForAll’s proposed action plan to eliminate anti-black racism.

Director of Social Policy, Analysis & Research Denise Andrea Campbell and Sacred Women International founder Aina Nia Ayo’dele lead the informal discussion over the weekend, giving an opportunity for community leaders and citizens to help in refining the current action plan that will be proposed to City Council in July.

“The opportunity for me to work with Tory and black community leaders to develop a process that we could name, talk about and confront to end anti-black racism,” she said.

The proposal was divided into two sections, actions that the city can take and actions they would have to communicate to the provincial government. The recommendations that could only be addressed federally were all shown to Don Valley East MPP Michael Coteau. Hon.

Coteau is developing a three-year battle plan against racism which includes, collecting race-based data across multiple sectors, dedicating $47-million to disadvantaged youth, public awareness campaigns and education initiatives.

Each section listed five themes the city would focus on if the proposal were approved. The themes are children & youth development, addressing increasing the number of culturally appropriate before and after school programs, increasing the hiring of black people, and expanding resources for black queer service providers; community engagement & black leadership which covered providing a developmental space for black businesses and investing in black arts and culture; health & community supports which includes increasing the number of permanent black health and social workers, expanding recreational programming, improving food access; job opportunities and income supports which covered increasing employment and training opportunities for black people, providing mentorship programs, promoting inclusive and equitable hiring practices; and policing & the justice system reviewing use of force protocols, collect and publicly report mandatory race-based data.

The lists of 22 total actions were briefly summarized by bullet point to give everyone an idea of the steps that will be taken to eliminate anti-blackness in Toronto. To contribute their opinions or concerns of each section of the proposal, attendees used dotted stickers that indicated their general opinion of one particular bullet point.

The options of stickers were red for dislike, blue for approve, and yellow for tell me more. The anonymous contribution allowed for everyone to share his or her true feelings on the suggested solutions while discussing the issues with others. For instance, the suggestion of creating a community oversight committee to act as a community police watchdog received a mixed bag of red, blue and yellow stickers, with a majority being yellow feedback.

Some guests placed a number of their dots on the same suggestion to imply they feel strongly one way or the other about that part of the plan. If anyone had additional concerns or questions they asked facilitators or spoke with Campbell or Toronto’s Mayor John Tory about their personal concerns.

Mayor Tory recalled attending one of the 41 community discussions that were conducted to form the action plan, and listening to the varying perspectives of community leaders. Particularly, he noted listening to a group of senior citizens in North Scarborough, expressing their hopes that Toronto could become a more inclusive space without discrimination for their children and grandchildren to live.

He also acknowledged that because of the colour of his skin, he never experienced micro-aggressive discrimination such as employees following him around the store.

“Whether it has been any form of discrimination brought to my attention…I have been there as leader of the city to condemn that and we have to work harder together in partnership to eradicate because that is not what Toronto is about”, Mayor Tory said.

Mayor Tory also mentioned that the City has devoted $300,000 to a program providing construction skills training for black youth aged 18 to 29 who have criminal records.

Though the crowd congratulated the move, some said there are issues with this proposed program that should be clarified. Zero Gun Violence Movement founder Louis March challenged this program and said, “The top 15 businesses in Toronto do not hire people who have a record…who can we get to hire them?”

The refined proposal will be presented to Executive Committee on June 19 and then to City Council at their July 5-7 meeting where it will be considered for approval and implementation.

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