Toronto

Ontario's new $47M anti-racism strategy met with 'healthy skepticism'

Ontario's newly-released anti-racism strategy promises to work with the education, justice and child welfare ministries to combat systemic racism in the institutions governed by those areas.

Provincial strategy meant to address systemic inequities in jobs opportunities, graduation rates

Michael Coteau, Ontario's minister responsible for anti-racism, unveiled the province's new strategy to fight systemic racism. (CBC)

Ontario's new anti-racism strategy promises to work with the education, justice and child welfare ministries to combat systemic racism in the institutions governed by those areas.

The three-year strategy will cost roughly $47-million and its first steps will focus on data collection to analyze inequities across the province, said Michael Coteau, the minister responsible for anti-racism.

He pointed to both the overrepresentation of black and Indigenous men within Ontario's jails — and the fact that while only about eight per cent of Toronto youth are black, roughly 40 per cent of children in provincial care are African-Canadian.

Closing the income gap

That data will be used to strengthen policies aimed at improving graduation rates among black and Indigenous youth, analyzing barriers to post-secondary education and the higher poverty rate within those populations, the minister said.  

"Despite the fact that we live in the largest, most diverse province in the country we have a problem with racism," Coteau said. "We know that these disparities in poverty and income inequality are unacceptable."

A plan specific to black youth will focus on addressing the root causes of some of those economic issues, according to the province.  

For the strategy to be successful, youth mentor Paul Bailey said the province needs to consult with black youth. (CBC)

But Toronto black youth mentor Dave D'Oyen said Ontario needs to rebuild trust with those it claims to want to help.

"We can't forget there are serious feelings of hopelessness, serious feelings of hurt that continue to persist and that's where we need to start," he said. "We are all approaching this with a healthy skepticism."

His colleague, Paul Bailey, noted that past governments have made similar promises to racialized communities, but have failed to do enough public consultation. 

Young people know what supports they need, Bailey said — and it's critical that the province listen to them while gathering empirical data. 

The anti-racism strategy will also include public education campaigns meant to target discrimination, something Coteau said is "urgently needed when it comes to Islamophobia."

With files from Alison Chiasson

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