Ontario restarts anti-racism directorate

Michael Coteau
Michael Coteau

With persistent community pressure compounded by Ontario NDP demands, Premier Kathleen Wynne announced last Tuesday that Ontario will re-establish an Anti-Racism Directorate.
To be headed by now-Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism Michael Coteau, the directorate will address racism in all its forms including individual, systemic and cultural.
“We know in our hearts that deeply entrenched biases are still at work, disadvantaging entire communities,” said Wynne.
“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. That is why we are establishing an Anti-Racism Directorate to advance racial equality across Ontario,” the province’s first openly gay premier said.
She said the government has done a lot of work over the years on this file but issues faced by Syrian refugees and the debate over police street checks – known as carding – have shown that action must be taken.
British born of Grenadian roots, Coteau will oversee the Anti-Racism Directorate as minister responsible for anti-racism and continue as minister of tourism, culture and sport.
“Despite all our progress towards building an inclusive society, racial minorities in Ontario continue to face economic and social barriers. I am honoured to assume this new role, and as minister responsible for anti-racism I will work to make our province a place where everyone has an equal opportunity to flourish.”
The directorate will work with key partners such as business, community organizations, educational institutions and the Ontario Human Rights Commissions.
The directorate will aim to:
• Increase public education and awareness of racism to create a more inclusive province;
• Apply an anti-racism lens to develop, implement and evaluate government policies, programs and services.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath in an interview with The Camera at the launch of Black History Month at Metro Convention Centre called for re-establishment of the anti-racism directorate, stressing that since her party launched their campaign for that in December, thousands of Ontarians have joined them in their call to re-establish such a directorate.
The NDP government of Ontario established an Anti-Racism Directorate to address persistent racial inequalities and inequities in the province. The position was cut by the subsequent Conservative government and while the Liberals passed legislation in 2006, they failed to establish a new directorate.
NDP MPP Teresa Armstrong (London-Fanshawe) said systemic racism persists. “Income inequality, unemployment and precarious employment continue to disproportionately affect racialized communities in the province.”
Ontario Human Rights Commission Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane said, “The Ontario Human Rights Commission has long recognized that government must play a leadership role in the fight against systemic discrimination. We are excited to work closely with Minister Coteau to advance our shared goal of a province where racialized Ontarians are able to realize their full potential free from discrimination.”