TCBN celebrates 10 years of opening doors for the marginalized

By Lincoln DePradine

Councillor Ausma Malik, a deputy mayor of Toronto, has reiterated a commitment to championing causes of social and racial justice.

Councillor Ausma Malik, Chris Campbell President TCBN and Rosemarie Powell

“You will continue to have a champion in me,’’ Malik, councillor for Spadina-Fort York, told participants at a 10tth anniversary event of the Toronto Community Benefits Network (TCBN).

TCBN, a coalition of groups – including labour and community organizations – has said that since its founding a decade ago, it has “facilitated pathways for over 5,000 individuals from marginalized groups to access good jobs and opportunities through Community Benefits Agreements, challenging the historical underrepresentation of Black, Indigenous, racialized peoples, and women in fields like construction and skilled trades’’.

The network has reaffirmed a determination to continue negotiating Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs).

“At the heart of TCBN’s mission,’’ it says, “lies the commitment to fostering good green jobs, supporting local economic development, ensuring community benefits through neighbourhood improvements and confronting the pervasive disparities, particularly evident in sectors like construction.’’

Marie Clarke Walker and Rosemarie Powell

Councillor Malik and other speakers at the anniversary event, at the United Steelworkers Hall in Toronto, commended TCBN on the work done since its founding in 2013.

“Thank you so much for leading the good fight for community benefits; thank you for leading the good fight for social, economic and racial justice,’’ she said.

In a city like Toronto, “we have to remain committed to the principles of equity and inclusivity and in advancing racial justice’’, Malik said.

Other speakers at the event, which was co-hosted by TCBN president Chris Campbell and executive director Rosemarie Powell, was California-based lawyer Julian Gross.

Gross, considered a leading expert on community benefits in land use development and public infrastructure, has extensive experience advising California nonprofits on a wide variety of organizational legal needs, and has negotiated dozens of CBAs.

Celebrated at the TCBN

As part of his visit to Toronto, Gross met in a closed door session with members of the network.

He recalled discussions held in California when visiting Canadians were giving thoughts to what became known as TCBN.

“It’s wonderful to see what’s happening in Toronto,’’ said Gross, explaining that TCBN has evolved into “an incredible network’’ of “10 years of advocacy, 10 years of network building’’ and “10 years of power building’’.

According to Gross, “sustained organizing’’, from members of groups such as TCBN, makes projects “better’’ and “delivers results to the communities’’; and, “they do play some part in the endless fight against racism and discrimination of all kinds’’.

Guest speaker Marie Clarke Walker, a former executive vice-president of the Canadian Labour Congress, noted that the TCBN event was being held on the same day of the 2024 commemoration of International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Canada still has “a very long way to go to eliminate racism and racial discrimination’’, and the international day of observance comes amidst “genocide’’ in some countries and “differential treatment’’ of people seeking asylum in Canada, said Walker.

She noted, for example, that Canada has a cap on the number of asylum seekers and immigrants from the African nation of Sudan. However, there is no limit on Ukrainian asylum seekers, whose application processing takes just a few days, Walker said.

Stephen Callender, President (ACCA), Rosemarie Powell, Executive Director TCBN, Julian Gross, Advocate for Project Labour Agreements, and Chris Campbell President TCBN

“The differential treatment is stark and it’s blatantly racist,’’ she charged. “What is needed, and what I want folks to hear, is that there needs to be equity of treatment; that is, fairness in the way that all of us is treated.’’

In Walker’s words, “we must stop denying the existence of the system of racism and truly begin to dismantle the system that allows racism and racial discrimination to continue’’.

As well, “less talk and more action’’ is needed, said Walker, who praised the work of TCBN.

“I have seen the impact of TCBN. TCBN has been an example of all the things that need to be changed and all the things that need to be done.’’