Police, school boards and other key Ottawa institutions are eroding trust within the city's black community because they aren't properly acknowledging the existence of anti-black racism, according to a new report.
Thursday's report, called Addressing Anti-Black Racism in Ottawa, was born out of a heavily-attended forum held in August 2016 that was organized by the City for All Women Initiative and the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership.
More than 300 people attended that forum, which was held one month after the death of Somali-Canadian Abdirahman Abdi during an attempted arrest by Ottawa police. The event had been in the works before Abdi's death.
'Nothing really surprised me'
Chelby Daigle, the author of the report, told CBC Ottawa's All In A Day Thursday that very little in the final version of the report was unexpected.
Anti-black racism has been studied for decades in different Canadian cities, said Daigle, but there have been few concrete steps taken to address it.
"So many incidents have happened in Ottawa, but there hasn't been an inter-generational transfer of that knowledge," said Daigle.
"Nothing really surprised me. I think that's the biggest thing to understand — I don't think there's anything really new in this report," said Daigle.
The report includes dozens of recommendations aimed at city police, school boards, social service organizations and local media. A sample:
- Social service organizations should consult tenants' rights groups, labour organizations and community groups with large black populations to more effectively connect with black Ottawans.
- Local school boards should collect racially "disaggregated" data on measures like school performance, dropout rates and graduation rates — and take action to address any gaps between black and non-black students.
- Ottawa police should hire and promote more officers from minority communities in Ottawa, and also establish clear and publicly accessible guidelines for how officers will be disciplined if they demonstrate racist behaviour. The police force's data collection project on traffic stops and race should also be expanded to include stops made on-foot.
- The Police Services Board should hold the chief accountable for ensuring that policies are put in place to eliminate racial profiling.
- The provincial government should make reports from the Special Investigations Unit "publicly accessible and accountable," while also giving individual police forces funding to help address concerns around racial profiling.
- Media outlets should acknowledge that failing to report on positive stories in the city's black community or offer comments from experts on black matters is part of "institutional anti-black racism."
The report also calls on those organizations to acknowledge the "systemic" anti-black racism within how they operate.
Black community members, meanwhile, are urged to hold those institutions accountable and advocate for their own inclusion on the boards of local social service agencies.
"We have to recognize that [anti-black racism] is something we might do unconsciously," Daigle said. "And the only way we're going to strategize to make things healthier .... is to name it and understand it."