Regina diversity committee on pause for further consultation after language, makeup concerns raised

Three representatives from Black in Saskatchewan raised concerns about being left out of the report.

Three representatives from Black in Saskatchewan raised concerns about the committee mandate and more

Regina's executive committee voted to send the diversity committee proposal back to administration for further consultation. (Matt Duguid/CBC)

Regina's executive committee voted to not approve a diversity committee and instead send the idea for more consultation after Black in Saskatchewan raised concerns over the committee process, language and makeup. 

The executive committee met on Wednesday morning to discuss a report about a diversity, equity and inclusion advisory committee. 

Three people with Black in Saskatchewan addressed the councillors with many concerns. Dolapo Fadare said that while she is happy to see the steps taken to create the diversity committee, she is dissatisfied with the report and process. 

"Black in Sask has been one of the primary organizations that has been advocating and involved in the establishment of this committee. However, there is no mention of our organization's effort," Fadare said. 

Fadare said the organization was told it would be consulted before the report was presented, but wasn't. 

"That this report omitted consultation from community based organizations is a prescriptive approach that does not consider the unique needs of Regina citizens or a community-led approach," she said. 

Fadare said the report states the committee should be proficient at promoting and celebrating multiculturalism, when it should be about being proactive about tackling the root causes of racism and discrimination in the city. 

Hundreds gathered rallies in Regina in May 2020, showing solidarity for Black Lives Matter and widespread demonstrations against police brutality and racism in the United States and Canada. (Bryan Eneas/CBC)

Typically in the City of Regina, a committee is started and then its membership work out a mandate and terms of reference. Fadare said instead, the city should get it right beforehand. 

Muna De Ciman, also with Black in Saskatchewan, said the committee needs to explicitly address racism. She said it currently doesn't mention racism, discrimination, macro- or microaggressions, or prejudice within the city. 

"How to address racism, which we all know is paramount in Regina. It's right in our backyard," De Ciman said. "I am asking on behalf of the group for us to be consulted."

The third speaker, Jennifer Wani, said the city should have two spots on the committee for Black residents and that the committee should be dedicated to implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations. Wani called for the report to go back to administration. 

"The council needs to further engage with us and our fellow community leaders and members to genuinely reflect what it means to execute an intersectional, culturally responsive and community-based approach to change."

Councillors voted unanimously to send the committee report back to administration for consultation. The diversity committee was approved in principle in 2020 following the Black Lives Matter protests at the Saskatchewan Legislature and originally proposed by Black in Saskatchewan. 

People participate in the Black Lives Matter rallies at the Saskatchewan Legislature in Regina in June 2020. (Matt Duguid/CBC News)

City manager Chris Holden said he will take responsibility for deficiencies in the report. He said the terms of reference are typically as broad as possible then refined by the committee. He said it's difficult putting together a committee. 

"What we're trying to do is establish a committee that's representative of the community, but also not so large and unwieldy that we can't get anything done," Holden said. 

Holden proposed there be 15 members, including 13 voting members. Holden and administration will now consult with visible minority groups, the gender and sexually diverse community, and persons with disabilities, then bring back a report in the fall. 

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.