Former book club motivated to create Equity, Inclusion committee in North Bay
After reading self-help book, group turns to actions to eliminate racism in community
A group is working to create an Equity and Inclusion committee in North Bay, and its members want city council's endorsement.
The ten individuals began as a virtual book club this past spring, reading "...But I'm NOT Racist!: Tools for Well-Meaning Whites" by Kathy Obear.
"We really bonded as a group and for some of us it was an eye-opening experience in terms of some of the stories we were hearing, and it turned into an action group," group member Dielle Raymond said
Around the time the North Bay book club was wrapping up its study, George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minn.
That incident in the US sparked hundreds of protests and rallies around the world, including a Black Lives Matter rally in North Bay on June 6.
It's estimated around 2,000 people participated in that local event, including the members of the book club.
Raymond says all the anti-racism action they were seeing spurred the group to want to improve the North Bay community.
They decided to establish a local Equity and Inclusion Committee, and are now seeking endorsement and support from city council for the City of North Bay.
"We like the idea of it including the entire city and everyone in the city, and city council is the best way to do that," she said.
Raymond says she and the rest of the initial group want to make sure the committee is made up of diverse individuals.
Data from the most recent census shows about 20 per cent of the population in the City of North Bay identify as either immigrant or Indigenous.
"A community-wide conversation is the best way to get started, the best way to understand each other and the best way to figure out the way to improve North Bay."
However Raymond doesn't want people to get the wrong idea about the city.
"Really at the end of the day it isn't about North Bay being behind, it's just about making North Bay even more beautiful and an even more attractive place for people to move to," Raymond said.
"I like to say if we're behind then we can catch up, and if we become even more progressive, then that's a beautiful thing too."
Make North Bay a place to move to
"But we want to help it be better, and we think that if we get the support of groups like our business community, [and] our city council, that we can all work together to make this the kind of community that people want to move to."
Switzer is a part-time commissioner with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and has worked on Indigenous issues including reconciliation.
"I've had a bit more experience in some of these issues than some of our committee members and glad to share my experiences with them," he said.
"It's all about learning about people who are different from you," Switzer said.
"Hopefully with that learning comes respect, and with that strong communities that stick together."
The group has reached out via email to North Bay's mayor and city councillors individually.
Switzer says some, including mayor Al McDonald, have been back in touch to connect with the group and offer support.
"The committee is going to go ahead whether city council endorses and participates in [the committee] or not. We hope they do," he said.
A spokesperson for the city says the matter has not been added to any upcoming council agenda.