Committee Approves Anti-Racism Strategy

Councillor Rawlson King remarked on the approval of the City's Ottawa's first Anti-Racism Strategy.

The Finance and Economic Development Committee today approved the City’s first Anti-Racism Strategy. It’s a five-year plan to proactively identify and remove systemic barriers in City policies, programs and services, and to realize its vision of racial equity.

The strategy provides 28 recommendations and 132 actions to address racial inequity in governance, housing, economic development, health, child and youth development, racial equity in the workplace and institutional practices. It aims to create programs and services that meet the diverse needs of Ottawa, and to grow an equitable and inclusive workforce.

Phase one would start next year and run until 2025, with a focus on building internal capacity and awareness, collecting race-disaggregated data, continuing engagement and relationship building and implementing recommendations and actions from the strategy. Following a mid-term review, phase two would run from 2025 to 2028, incorporating feedback, data and lessons learned from phase one while continuing to implement actions outlined in the plan.

 

Councillor Rawlson King, as Council Liaison for Anti-Racism and Ethnocultural Relations Initatives, delivered the following remarks to the Committee:

Today, is a very special day for many of us who share great hope and aspirations for this City; and who have also had a hand in crafting the path that brought us to this historic opportunity. 

To each and all, I convey deep and abiding gratitude, especially our guests from the anti-racism advisory table who addressed us today. 

The last few years have been unlike any before for our usually quiet City – 

  • in 2018, it was the tornado,
  • in 2019, the global pandemic, 
  • in 2020, the George Floyd murder catalyzed global awareness and then action against racial discrimination, uprising of social justice movements, discovery of unmarked graves at Residential Schools across the Country, increased acts of racist hate in our community 
  • in past few weeks a EF-2 category thunderstorm which created prolonged power outages in th City and of course, earlier this year, it was the three-week truck blockade that wreaked havoc on our peaceful community and penalized our local economy to the tune of $30 million dollars.

Yes, it was just last February, only months ago – organized by individuals including some who champion white nationalism, racism, and Islamophobia. 

In our streets, we saw racist, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic symbols, the denigration of Indigenous culture, the denigration of rainbow flags,  and we  heard ignorant words spewed.  

And we shared a collective sigh when they left our City.

But we also took away something very important. 

We were reminded that racism, ignorance, and hatred is not welcome in Ottawa. 

In fact, the Anti-Racism Secretariat was born out of a catalyst event in 2019 where a racial slur was spray painted on a family’s garage door in Rideau-Rockcliffe. This act of hate and racial discrimination was shocking and devastating. It sparked concern amongst racialized communities across Ottawa, including organizations such as the African Canadian Association of Ottawa, 613-819 Black Hub, Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership, the Ottawa Muslim Association, Jewish Family Services of Ottawa and many, many others, who wanted municipal action. 

It was this pivotal moment that led to the community’s proposal for the creation of the Anti-Racism Secretariat in the City, and its approval by City Council,

Mayor Watson, Fellow Councillors, City Colleagues and fellow Ottawa residents:

As your Council Liaison on Anti-Racism and Ethnocultural Initiatives, I am here to tell you something that I am confident you already know.

The time to act is now.

Our Anti-Racism Strategy speaks to that. 

It is the right thing, at the right time. It speaks to the hopes for our City.

As has been pointed out, it has come about through a rigorous direct consultation and engagement process which spanned more than 15 months.

It is an authentic and durable representation of the aspiration of over 1,000 local residents, subject matter experts, City employees, and City partners.

During our engagement process, the residents of this City told us that they wanted Ottawa to be a leader in addressing systemic racism. They told us that the community is ready to support this work. They want transparency from the City and they want to be continuously involved in a process that advances equity in employment, equity in economic development, equity in governance, equity in health, equity in housing and equity in investing in our youth. 

They want to see actions to validate that the City is listening. 

They are asking for accountability.

We will meet that through established metrics and indicators to assess our progress on achieving the intended outcomes the strategy is meant to achieve. 

We will also capture, collect and report on race-disaggregated data as part of our accountability framework.

I want to tell you that the strategy also recognizes that there are different perspectives on how to address racism against Indigenous people. 

We want to approach this work in a good way ensuring we respectfully engage with the First [SM3] Nations and urban Indigenous communities in ways that foster sustained and strong relationships.

Made-up of the views, voices and ideas of residents fromacross Ottawa [SM4] , this strategy reinforces our City’s commitment to closing gaps and addressing racial divides through a coordinated, trauma-informed and systems-wide approach.

I must tell you that allyship is very important. 

By allyship, I mean that this is not just the duty of Black, Indigenous and racialized people. It is a shared responsibility for everyone. 

We need all hands on deck to address these deeply entrenched systemic barriers imposed against many by structural, institutional power. 

Our strategy is appropriately fitting for our world-class, cosmopolitan city. It helps us ensure that the people of Ottawa feel safe, irrespective of racial and inter-sectional identities. It will also ensure equitable access to City programs, services, resources and opportunities.

By doing good for our people, this strategy also contributes to a better, more prosperous municipality. Everyone gains.

This plan is a call to action to all people of Ottawa. It establishes the foundation to confront and remove racial inequities.  It is an opportunity to better serve Ottawa residents, redress societal issues, collectively heal and build a better future.

This plan started with the community. It will continue to belong to the community. That is why, in my capacity as Council Liaison, it remains my commitment to keep our community engaged.

We all know it is time to act. Words are good. But action vindicates words.

The Great Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr said: 

“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there "is" such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.” 

He made that call for racial and social justice in 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial. 

Next year will make it 60 years since he made that plea.

So, in closing, I say to you that, in this very important time in the evolution of our great city, -- this Anti-Racism Strategy helps us meet this challenge.

I invite all residents of Ottawa to collectively contribute to denouncing forms of hate. I invite each and all to speak up and speak out to issues that remove barriers to ensure the full inclusion of Indigenous, Black and other racialized communities.

I look forward to collaborating on the road ahead towards ensuring our City and our country remains a shining example to all.

Thank you again to everyone; to all our partners, City staff, and community members who were pivotal in shaping and bringing the Anti-Racism Strategy forward.  And I would also like to thank my Council colleagues for their unwavering support in pursuing greater equity and greater justice for all in our City.

 

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