By Carlton Joseph
Last week, John Tory, the Mayor of Toronto, unveiled at City Hall a draft municipal Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism.
The Plan contained five themes, 22 recommendations and 77 actions which the mayor said the “ City of Toronto could undertake.” The mayor conceded that the recommendations of the Plan alone cannot solve problems of racism but he said he is confident that they are an important first step for the City to take to combat systemic racism across Toronto.
He indicated that this unveiling was an attempt to review a summary of the 41 Community meetings to determine if “we got the message right, and the purpose of that in turn is not to just confirm we have an accurate summary of the community’s current feelings about past recommendations but rather to forge out of that assessment an Action Plan for Toronto to take on anti-Black racism.”
My first reaction to the article was of skepticism. Was this a political move to get the non-white vote? Does he understand that he could lose the upcoming elections based on this Action Plan?
I was also hopeful; if Mr. Tory is for real, then the non- white community is being recognized as essential to the future of Toronto. I then began to read the Caribbean Camera’s editorial and commentary on Troy’s plan. The editorial indicated that the Mayor was the most recent political leader to announce an anti-Black racism plan and considering that his level of popularity is not particularly bad, Mayor Tory gets a C under criterion 1. This criterion includes the overall credibility of the leader and his/her party. The editorial concluded that since there are so far no significant challengers to threaten his chances of re-election, Mayor Tory, anti-Black plan or not, is the only one who stands a good chance of winning his electoral battle by default.
Now, based on the editorial, I am totally in awe of the Mayor’s Action Plan, because he really does not have to do anything to appease the non-white community. I am now hopeful, but still skeptical. As a Caribbean American residing in the US for over 40 years I begin to examine my thinking. Am I using an American racial lense to examine and understand the Canadian situation? In the US Mr. Trump is trying to deport the undocumented Latino population, and stop Muslims from entering the country. The US Attorney General has re-declared the war on drugs and has told his staff to reinstate stiff penalties for all drug offenders. His goal is to ensure the expansion of the Prison Industry Complex. Republican Governors in over 30 states are implementing laws that would suppress the minority vote. Could all this regressive “dark ages thinking” be going on in the US while our northern neighbors are experiencing an age of enlightenment? I decide to dig deeper to discover the source of this enlightened thinking.
Upon request, I received another document: Ontario’s thee- year anti-Black Racism Plan entitled: “Ontario’s Black Youth Action Plan.” This plan was developed and presented by the Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynn. In the document. Wynn stated “Prejudice runs deep through our shared history. Where prejudices have shaped the policies, practices and procedures of institutions we use every day, we must work to eliminate them. Systemic racism can lead to the overrepresentation of racialized, Black and Indigenous people in our jails and children’s aid services. The plan targets systemic racism by building an anti-racism approach into the way government develops policies, makes decisions, evaluates programs, and monitors outcomes. It calls for a proactive, collaborative effort from all government ministries and community partners to work toward racial equity.”
I am now convinced that this is not “politricks,” but politics doing the work it is supposed to do. Identify and acknowledge problems that will negatively impact on the development of the province and the country, and allocate resources to address and solve the problem. The Mayor is not some renegade trying to win “minority” votes but part of a well thought out action plan to improve the economic, cultural and social wellbeing of indigenous and minority communities.
The four-year plan commits $47 million to help reduce disparities for Black children, youth and families by: Investing in culturally focused parenting initiatives and mentoring programs; supporting Black children to stay in school by investing in early intervention programming; helping Black students access higher education through culturally focused outreach; ensuring programs and policies meet the specific needs of at-risk youth through Ontario-based research; helping Black youth find their career path by investing in targeted skills development programs; investing in community outreach and promoting anti-violence; using a collective impact approach, an innovative way of tackling deep-rooted and complex social problems by aligning efforts and existing resources across sectors to provide a local voice for Black organizations.
The Caribbean, indigenous and other minority communities need to embrace this opportunity. In the US, such an open confrontation of racism would not survive the first meeting. America had black mayors, black governors and even had its first black president and they have never proposed such an audacious initiative. Mr. Obama did not have the courage to embrace any bold black initiatives in the eight years he served as President.
The Canadian minority community is being asked to sit at the table and assist in making decisions that will impact the black youths and its community. It is time to seize the opportunity to serve your community and also to create businesses in your community. I have packed my bags and I am heading to Toronto to help serve our community. My plan is to assist in the establishment of a nonprofit organization that will participate in this most enlightening venture. If you care to volunteer, please send your name, email address, and phone number to:
email@example.com or send by regular mail to: Can we help today c/o Caribbean Camera Inc. 20-71 Old Kingston Road Ajax. Ontario. L1T 3A6
(Trinidad-born Carlton Joseph who lives in Washington, D.C., is a close observer of political developments in the United States.)