Anti-racism plan stirs up anger

Premier Kathleen Wynne & Michael Coteau By Jasminee Sahoye
Premier Kathleen Wynne & Michael Coteau
By Jasminee Sahoye

Anger is seething in some circles over the recent announcement by Premier Kathleen Wynne that the government is re-establishing an Anti-Racism Directorate headed by Michael Coteau, the tourism, culture and sports minister.
Twitter is buzzing with some praising and others criticizing the move.
A former Toronto community activist tweeted, “Why now? An election is looming; they are scared to lose the ethnic votes.”
Rachel Decoste posted, “Premiere Wynne has put women plus LGBT in the mandatory school curriculum, ignored Black history. This (minister) doesn’t fix her omission.
“She forces corporations to report on gender, not race; this doesn’t fix her omission, Kathleen Wynne thinks declaring Black History Month, which we already have, is a gift. End racist#carding now!”
Decoste continued, “Ministry of Anti-Racism is meaningless if we don’t see an end to racist carding.”
A Twitter used calling themselves Gold Hound tweeted, “The fact that Canada even thinks that a minister of anti-racism is necessary shows how absolutely insane your country has gone.”
In announcing the move, Wynne said, “I have fought for equality my entire life and I know that government needs to play a leading role in the fight against racial discrimination and inequality.” Wynne is openly gay.
Andrew Griffith, author, commentator, blogger on citizenship, multiculturalism and public policy and a former government executive with domestic and international experience wrote about “the woman who ran Ontario’s since-shuttered anti-racism secretariat two decades ago is today unconvinced the province needs to reopen the office under a different name.”
He noted that Anne-Marie Stewart led the Ontario Anti-Racism Secretariat, opened in 1992 under then-premier Bob Rae of the NDP.
“She oversaw the office for three years and helped implement programs to tackle racism and discrimination within the Ontario Public Service and in the community, until it was shuttered by (former Conservative premier) Mike Harris’s government.” But, he said, with 23 years of hindsight, Stewart is unconvinced another office is the answer.
“It sounds like they are going to more or less repeat something that was disbanded. I’m not sure that that’s an effective way to go about addressing the situation,” he wrote that she said on a call from Trinidad.
“I think this is a knee-jerk response to the situation. I’m sure the government is well-meaning. I’m sure that the people who are pushing for it are well-meaning. But it’s not going to work if it’s not done properly and I don’t think they’re doing it the right way,” Griffith quoted Stewart as saying.
Coteau is setting up an advisory body to assist in creating the directorate, noting it is critical to hear the voices of racialized communities.
That group includes: Avvy Go, director, Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic; Debbie Douglas, executive director, Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants; Mohamed Boudjenane, president, Canadian Arab Federation; Shalini Konanur, executive director, South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario; Neethan Shan, executive director, Council of Agencies Serving South Asians and Anthony Morgan, staff lawyer, African Canadian Legal Clinic.