Ottawa: Community tells Ontario government of systemic racism

The last in a series of public consultations to help inform the Ontario anti-racism directorate:

Hiwot Adhanom couldn’t believe what she was hearing from two co-workers conducting a hiring process for a public service job.

Her colleagues were attempting to determine who might meet the job criteria’s preference for Canadian citizens. “The first answer is ‘I guess we can tell by their name’,” Adhanom said she overheard them say. It wasn’t until they saw her nameplate that they stopped to think that Canadian citizenship means more than that. It was not her first experience with racism in a workplace.

At another job, a manager at a retail store who hired her nonchalantly told her how she was “not anything like all of the other black people who come in here looking for work.” “She saw nothing wrong with that, she thought she was paying me a compliment by insulting me and every other person who happens to be black,” said Adhanom, one of dozens of people who lined up behind microphones Saturday to tell their experiences to Ontario’s political leaders.

The anti-racism directorate is attempting to come up with a strategy to address systemic racism within government. The meeting is the last of 10 public consultations held across the province before it comes up with a policy, which is expected to be released in the spring of 2017.

For Adhanom, it was asking the directorate to develop tools and resources that employers are required to use to ensure fairness and equality in hiring.

It was just one of a spectrum of concerns about systemic racism and injustice that Ontario’s minister responsible for anti-racism, Michael Coteau, heard about from an audience of 200 during the two-hour meeting at the RA Centre. Others described systemic racism in the criminal justice system, health care, child welfare system, schools and the hiring process. Many called on more education as a means to combat it.

Attorney General Yasir Naqvi also attended the meeting, along with local MPPs Nathalie Des Rosiers, John Fraser and Marie-France Lalonde. Ottawa police chief Charles Bordeleau, other senior police officers and Ottawa councillors Jeff Leiper and Mark Taylor were also present.

The directorate’s goal is to eliminate systemic racism in institutions governed or regulated by the Ontario government, increase awareness and understanding of systemic racism among the public, promote fair practices and policies that lead to racial equity, and collaborate with the community, business organizations and the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

“You have to start in government. You can’t go out there preaching that change needs to happen but not take care of that change internally,” said Coteau. “What we are talking about today is not about putting in quotas or saying ‘X amount of jobs have to be this,’ it’s about removing barriers so people have the opportunity to compete on a fair basis to get the types of jobs that they are qualified to get.”

Source: Ottawa Citizen | Latest Breaking News | Business | Sports | Canada …

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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