TORONTO — Ontario is focusing on tackling anti-black and anti-indigenous discrimination as well as Islamophobia in its newly released three-year strategy to combat systemic racism.
Michael Coteau, the minister responsible for anti-racism, said systemic racism can't be ended tomorrow, but a long-term strategy is a good way forward.
"When even one of our citizens is left behind the entire province suffers," he said. "These are concrete actions from a government to dismantle systemic racism and its devastating impact it's having on our communities. While it isn't a be (all) and end-all solution it is a bold step in the right direction and this is just the beginning."
This fall, Ontario will hold an anti-racism conference that will become an annual event to bring together researchers, community partners, experts and policy makers, Coteau announced.
The plan includes collecting race-based data in the child welfare, justice and health sectors, as well as in education from kindergarten to Grade 12.
Gathering that information is vital, said Avvy Go, the chair of the steering committee for Colour of Poverty-Colour of Change.
"The collection of this aggregated data is foundational to the success of any anti-racism strategy," she said. "Without such data we simply cannot properly measure the progress over time of any plan that a government might choose to adopt or implement."
It will also create an "assessment framework" to help remove unconscious bias in certain programs, starting in the child welfare, justice and education sectors this spring.
The province will develop an anti-black racism strategy to be released this fall and a specific Black Youth Action Plan comes with a four-year funding commitment of $47 million aimed at increasing educational and employment opportunities as well as mental health and other supports for black children and youth.
"For far too long, funding in this province when it comes to our black youth is reactive and it's time that it be responsive," Coteau said. "I want black youth in this province to know that their lives matter. I want them to know that they matter and I want them to know that the government of Ontario and the people of Ontario care for them."
The anti-black racism strategy will look to target the over-representation of black children and youth in the child welfare system, an "achievement gap" between black students and other students and a disproportionate number of black males in the justice system.
In the strategy the government says the need to address Islamophobia is "urgent" and it will research its causes and impacts, and look at collecting and publishing police data on reported incidents of Islamophobia and other forms of racial prejudice.
An Indigenous-focused anti-racism strategy will also be developed, including public education, a youth-leading-youth program and a professional training toolkit, the government announced.
Public education initiatives will also focus on anti-black racism, anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia "and other forms of racism against racialized groups such as Sikhs."
The Liberal government intends to introduce legislation to give it authority to mandate race data collection, use the anti-racism assessment framework and develop "measurable targets."
Allison Jones, The Canadian Press