Ottawa

Mayor to join protest at U.S. Embassy on Friday

After telling city councillors that "racism is in our midst," Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson announced he'll be participating in the "No Peace Until Justice" march at the U.S. Embassy on Friday afternoon.

Coun. Rawlson King appointed special liaison for anti-racism and enthnocultural issues

Protesters demonstrate against police action in the death of George Floyd and others in Halifax on Monday, June 1, 2020. Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said Tuesday he plans to join a similar protest at the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa on Friday. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

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  • Council approved Coun. Rawlson King's appointment as its liaision for anti-racism on June 19, 2020.

After telling city councillors that "racism is in our midst," Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson announced he'll be participating in the "No Peace Until Justice" march at the U.S. Embassy on Friday afternoon.

Near the end of a brief finance and economic development committee meeting Tuesday morning, the mayor took the opportunity to address the upheaval sparked by last week's killing of George Floyd, a black man, by police in Minnesota.

Floyd's death, which has ignited a wave of protests across the U.S. and around the world, "has left many Ottawa residents and Canadians shaken, angry, hurt and disgusted," Watson said.

 

"Watching his senseless killing is difficult to bear for many, as it was for me," he said.

The mayor urged Ottawans to stand in solidarity with protesters, adding that it's our responsibility to call out incidents of racism, no matter how minor they may seem. 

"And that includes standing up for our fellow residents of Asian descent who are being subjected to racist and hurtful taunts because of the absurd notion that they somehow bear responsibility for the COVID-19 pandemic," Watson said.

"Because racism can only survive and spread if it has oxygen. The more we refuse to give it oxygen, the less it has room to breathe and expand."

The mayor said he's "encouraged by the positivity" surrounding the protest march planned for Friday at 3 p.m. outside the U.S. Embassy on Sussex Drive, and plans to take part in the event.

Although Ontario is still under a state of emergency, and social gatherings are supposed to be kept to five people, there seems to be an understanding among officials that people will be engaging in protests nonetheless. The mayor asked that anyone attending Friday's event at the U.S. Embassy wear a mask, try to stay away from others and wash their hands as soon as possible.

 

Also on Tuesday morning, Rideau-Rockcliffe Coun. Rawlson King was appointed council's liaison for anti-racism and ethnocultural relations initiatives — work he had already begun last year when he proposed that an anti-racism secretariat be created at the city.

The committee heard Tuesday that an anti-racism specialist will be hired in coming weeks.

Coun. Rawlson King has been named council liaison on anti-racism and ethnocultural relations initiatives. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

"Our city has experienced an increase in hate crimes against indigenous people, racialized people, as well as the Jewish and Muslim communities," said King, who is the first black person elected to Ottawa city council.

He said that "prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping" have contributed to disparities in income employment, housing, health care and education, and have led to "overrepresentation of racialized people within the criminal justice system and recurrent negative interactions with the police."

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