For Black History Month, the Institute launched a policy series highlighting bold policy solutions in order to tackle anti-Black racism, focusing on the need for intergovernmental action. Each submission proposes a plan for governments to work together to tackle a problem; while serving as a guide for advocates working towards [what should be] our collective effort to eradicate anti-Black racism.
In 2017, Toronto's City Council unanimously adopted the Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism. The Action Plan's adoption followed the organization and mobilization of Black Torontonians tired of receiving only political pleasantries when so many from their communities continued to suffer. The disparities faced by Black Torontonians haven been highlighted by report after report. It's been proven that Black Torontonians are over-represented in carding and street checks; are experiencing dramatic increases in hate crimes in Ontario; and almost half of the City's Black children live in poverty compared to only 15% for non-racialized.
With these fact-based policy shortcomings in mind, Toronto's Black communities organized, protested and called for a City-led strategy to address anti-Black racism. What makes this action plan a policy solution worth highlighting, has been how it has sought to leverage municipal tools, services and programs to address anti-Black racism. Local and/or municipal governments are often overlooked when it comes to robust policy-making — despite, many of our most pressing problems manifesting in Canadian cities. Questions surrounding equity and access regarding the day-to-day services we use and depend on, are too far removed from upper level governments to proactively address and/or intervene when necessary. With increasingly growing and diverse populations residing in cities, strong municipal leadership is needed more than before. The anti-Black racism unit in the City bureaucracy identifies 22 recommendations and 80 actions over five years that utilize and leverage the municipal government's unique administrative authorities and tools. With Toronto being home to the largest percentage of Black people in Ontario, and a local government with increased municipal powers, the City of Toronto is the perfect jurisdiction to test these levers.
The Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism recognizes that anti-Blackness goes beyond the boundaries of municipal governance powers and so must include collaboration with all orders of government, institutions, business, schools community agencies and individuals. From the action plan, there are nine actions that call for the City to communicate, advocate or champion initiatives to the federal and provincial governments. In addition, collaboration between the different orders of government is essential. In its first year, the Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit (CABR) has leveraged the provincial establishment of race-based data collection standard to help build out a municipal strategy to better collect and use race-based data to help address inequities in services, programs and funding delivery. This strategy is expected to be delivered by end of 2019 with pilots rolled out on collecting race-based data.
As the federal government has embarked on the development of an anti-racism strategy, the City’s community engagement process for developing the action plan has been noted as a best practice by the federal government, particularly noting the buy-in we’ve received from community. By engaging Black communities in meaningful and intentional ways, solutions have arrived from leadership from these Black communities — not the corridors of power and presented merely for validation.
Finally, we cannot simply rely on just governments to drive systemic change. We must remember the genesis of this action plan was Black community organizing through grassroots engagement — with 41 community conversations taking place across the City with over 800 individuals in building out the action plan. Community engagement is critical to the implementation of the action plan. Along with ongoing opportunities to share updates with and listen to Black Torontonians, the Partnership and Accountability Circle, composed of twelve diverse Black Torontonians was established. PAC supports accountability, transparency and the full implementation of the action plan.
Government leadership on the municipal level, that includes a robust, intergovernmental strategy is a bold step to combat systemic anti-Black racism. While the effectiveness of this model, as seen with the anti-Black racism unit, is still in the early stages of monitoring and evaluation —what's for certain is that the City of Toronto's motto of "diversity our strength" can only be sustained by lifting up our advocacy and engagement efforts from the ground up.
Mohamed Shuriye, Policy Development Officer- Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit, City of Toronto