By Lincoln DePradine
Progressive Conservative (PC) MPP Graham McGregor has pledged the Ontario government’s commitment to combating hatred of people and their culture, describing hate as “toxic’’.
“We believe there is no place for hate in Ontario. No one should feel they’re targeted because of their background,’’ said McGregor, rookie provincial representative for Brampton North and parliamentary assistant to Michael Ford, minister of citizenship and multiculturalism.
He was part of a trio of government officials, who included solicitor general Michael Kerzner, who hosted a “cultural media conference’’ with reporters from The Caribbean Camera and other ethnic media.
“We really believe strongly, in the PC Caucus, we believe strongly, in the Ontario government, that cultural media are essential to having an informed public. We want to make sure that we’re building that direct relationship with you, and your listeners and audiences are able to get information directly from government,’’ McGregor said.
During the media discussion and question-and-answer, with McGregor, Kerzner and the solicitor general’s parliamentary assistant, Etobicoke-Lakeshore MPP Christine Hogarth, issues such as public safety, auto theft, policing, repeat violent offenders, correctional services and the province’s bail and parole systems, were raised.
“There is nothing more important than having a safe community,’’ said Kerzner, MPP for York Centre. “We’re going to work hard with one message: our public safety is our priority.’’
Early in May, the provincial administration announced that, over the next two years, $25.5 million will be invested in addressing the “rise of hate incidents against religious and minority groups’’,
including members of the Black and Caribbean community.
Beginning this summer, churches, mosques, synagogues and temples are among organizations eligible to apply for assistance of up to $10,000 under the “Anti-Hate Security and Prevention Grant’’.
The money, according to Hogarth, “will help faith-based and cultural organizations enhance or implement measures to ensure community spaces remain safe and secure’’, covering the cost of “additional prevention and capacity-building measures’’.
Grant funding can be used for things such as building upgrades, enhancing locks, installing cameras, training staff, completing security assessments, introducing safer cybersecurity measures, hiring short-term professional security personnel, and making repairs.
The government says there were more than 1,500 police-reported hate crimes in Ontario in 2021, with Indigenous, Black, Muslim, Jewish and LGBTQ communities being the most targeted groups in recent years.
“Building on our other investments to combat hate, the new Anti-Hate Security and Prevention Grant will help build stronger, safer and more inclusive communities and ensure everyone has a safe environment to practice their faith and express their culture and beliefs,’’ said multiculturalism minister Michael Ford.
Almost half a million newcomers, including people from the Caribbean and Africa, arrived in Ontario last year, and solicitor general Kerzner has pledged that there will be a “zero-tolerance policy’’ to hate in Ontario, which accepted almost half a million newcomers last year, including people from the Caribbean and Africa.
“We will continue to protect the people of this province,” Kerzner emphasized.
McGregor told reporters that “everybody belongs in Ontario’’ and “everybody deserves to feel safe. It doesn’t matter who you love, where you come from, how you choose to worship God’’.
Hate is “toxic to our democracy’’, added McGregor, a 29-year-old, who was elected to the legislature in last June’s provincial election.
“We need to make sure that no matter where people come from that they feel welcome; they feel safe and they feel able to practice their religion, live out their cultural values and establish a great life here. We know we’re a better province because of diversity and we welcome more and more newcomers,’’ he said.
“Our government will continue to do everything we can to keep Ontario safe; to have the backs of everyone who keeps us safe.’’