On Sept. 26, the provincial government held an anti-racism panel in Hamilton, as a part of their anti-racism directorate to address systemic racism within Ontario.
The anti-racism directorate was created in Feb. 2016, and its main aims are to decrease systemic racism within provincial government institutions, increase awareness of systemic racism within the local communities and promote fair practices that lead to racial equity. Since July, the panel has held various meetings to discuss systemic racism in an open forum.
The anti-racism panel was held at Mohawk College, where the community gathered to discuss the specific race sensitive issues in Hamilton.
Approximately 150 people were in attendance, and audience members were encouraged to speak to the panel of municipal and provincial representatives about their concerns.
Some of the notable members of the audience included minister MPP and minister responsible for anti-racism Michael Coteau, Ward 3’s Matthew Green, and McMaster’s equity and inclusion office’s senior program manager Vilma Ross.
Community leaders were also in attendance, and many spoke about their experiences as well as their issues with the directorate itself. Ken Stone, chair of the community coalition against racism in Hamilton, noted the redundancy of the directorate in his speech.
“Many excellent pieces of research have already been done over the last three decades, proving conclusively that systemic racism infects every facet of our justice system, it exists in the school, and it colours who gets and doesn’t get the best jobs available in Ontario,” said Stone in his speech.
Members of the audience also spoke about the current government’s own relationship with racialized groups. Manohar Singh Bal of the Gursikh Sangat of Hamilton accused Coteau of dismissing his group’s concerns, to which Coteau responded was due to logistical issues.
McMaster students were also in attendance, and shared mixed feelings towards the panel.
“I think it depends a lot on how you feel about the efficacy of our current system of government in enacting change through policy and the like,” commented Michelle Xu, a second-year Arts and Science student. “There was so much valuable information, stories, and suggestions that were shared from the audience, and I have so much respect for everybody who came up to speak to their own experiences and for their communities.”
Others were more hopeful, citing the panels as a necessary step.
“[The panel] was necessary because if [Michael Coteau] hadn’t done it he would’ve been seen as illegitimate and because he did do it there was a lot of anxiety to the usefulness of it,” commented Chukky Ibe, a fifth-year Political Science student. “I think it was a show of leadership from their office and we’re just waiting on their results.”
The directorate will continue their stops in other cities, their upcoming stop being in London on Oct. 7 and in Sudbury on Oct. 15. Individuals are encouraged by the Liberal government to come out and have their concerns heard.