BY: CHELSEA OWUSU
On June 4th, Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was in Brampton to hold a town-hall style meeting with members of the Afro-Caribbean community, to share and discuss important issues.
The event, known as “Salon Talk”, was held at Salon Paradise, a popular Brampton-based salon.
“After so many decades of discussions that have occurred, so little change has happened, and particularly for the black community, we see so little change. In some ways, I think we’ve gone backward,” said Horwath.
The discussion was moderated by respected educator Luther Brown. “Andrea is a leader that demonstrates her willingness to listen, plan out a common course of action, and do something about it,” said Brown.
Throughout the discussion, members of the community had the opportunity to ask questions about a number of different issues within the Afro-Caribbean community. This included common topics such as access to education, access to public resources and services, student debt, healthcare, and jobs.
“I think that part of what we have to face up to and acknowledge and recognize is that systemic racism still exists in the school system,” said Horwath. “What we don’t have in our education system is a commitment to having a curriculum and an educational experience that is reflective of all of the students in the classroom.”
Many questions were asked about the province’s current housing market that continues to create difficulties for many homeowners and prospective home buyers. “The bills are getting higher and the opportunities are reducing, and folks are really stuck between a rock and a hard place. One of the things that you really need to be able to build your life is stable, affordable, adequate housing,” said Horwath.
“The NDP has made a strong commitment around affordable housing. We’ve done so specifically around the one-third cost sharing. We’ve also recognized that we need to start being at the table and working with the federal government as well as municipal governments to increase the available stock.”
One individual raised an important question surrounding the rising costs of tuition in Ontario, and the difficulties for post-secondary graduates to find work in their desired field. “It is a terrible situation in this province where our tuition costs are the highest in the country, and yet the amount of money that the province funds directly to post-secondary is the lowest in the country,” said Horwath.
“As a New Democrat leader, one of the things we have been trying to do is get these issues on the agenda.”
Horwath mentioned that more needs to be done in order to combat anti-black racism that still exists within the community. Horwath believes that if elected in 2018, her party aims to work hard towards eliminating racism and creating better opportunities for the next generation.
“One of the things that did exist was an anti-racism secretary and I sometimes wonder had that been able to continue over these last few decades, would we still be in a situation that we are today? ” said Horwath.
At the beginning of the year, the province banned carding by police, but many believe this new legislation is not enough to put an end to the controversial practice.
The NDP leader also mentioned a few issues that she believes the Liberal government is not providing solutions to. Horwath also discussed future plans for the NDP and her hopes to create beneficial change in Ontario. “What we don’t need to see is idle acknowledgments and commitments with no real action,” said Horwath.
As the discussion came to an end, Horwath thanked members for participating and hoped that her platform is one that the community can see value in.