Virtual town halls - Mobilizing key social and economic sectors

The Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat recognizes that all sectors of society can play an important role in working towards eliminating systemic racism. The Federal Secretariat is hosting a series of virtual town halls with leaders of key sectors of society to accelerate efforts to combat systemic racism in Canadian society.

Careful attention is being placed on centering the voices of Indigenous Peoples, as well as Black, Asian, Muslim, Jewish, racialized and religious minority communities in the conversations. Through the town halls, panellists and participants present recommendations on ways their respective sectors and Government can collaborate more effectively against systemic racism across Canada.

Virtual Town Hall on Systemic Racism in the Workplace

On October 8, 2020, the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat was delighted to collaborate with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) on a conversation on systemic racism, the pandemic, and its impact on workers in Canada. The discussion touched on labour laws, unionization, diversity in governance, data collection and the capacity of the labour movement to tackle systemic racism. Speakers included Larry Rousseau, Executive Vice-President of CLC. Other guest speakers were:

  • Sharon De Sousa, PSAC’s National Executive Vice-President (NEVP)
  • Emmanuelle Lopez-Bastos, National Coordinator, Human Rights, Equity and Diversity Department, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW Canada)

Participants called for a review of the Employment Equity Act as well as more expansive labour regulations to make employers more accountable and responsible for combatting systemic racism and advancing LGBTQ2 workers’ rights. Many identified access to more race-based data and more effective remedial actions as required for institutional policies to have a positive impact on racialized and Indigenous workers. The discussion also addressed the need to give a voice to grassroots racialized and Indigenous workers committees to ensure that the labour movement is adequately tackling systemic racism both within the movement and in the broader Canadian workplace. Participants also recommended that collective agreements include a clause requiring a duty for employers to provide unions with disaggregated race-based data.

Systemic Racism in Housing Virtual Town Hall

On October 15, 2020, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) joined forces with the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat to co-host a town hall on systemic racism in the housing sector. With over 200 people in attendance, participants spoke about postal code discrimination, “redlining,” and schooling discrimination. Discussions also centred on the historical destruction of Black neighbourhoods, such as Africville, in Canada, and on eco-racism. Speakers and panellists included:

  • Evan Siddall, Chief Executive Officer of CMHC;
  • Cliff Grant, Director Strategic Relations, Aboriginal Housing Management Society (British Columbia);
  • Cheryll Case, Founder and Principal Urban Planner of CP Planning (Brampton, Ontario);
  • Shalini Konanur, Executive Director, South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO);
  • Victoria Perrie, Criminal Lawyer, Indigenous Bar Association, Rankin Inlet, Nunavut; and
  • Will Prosper, Co-Founder of Hoodstock.

Proposed solutions included better tenant protection measures, tackling anti-Black and anti-Indigenous practices used by property developers, which leave tenants vulnerable to discrimination. Participants also recommended that all housing advertisements should include notices that discrimination is illegal and provide a list of resources for prospective tenants facing discrimination. Following the Town Hall, the Government Canada announced an investment of $40 million to support the housing needs of Black people in Canada, which is being managed through CMHC and Habitat for Humanity Canada.

Systemic Racism in Academia Town Hall

The Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat, Montreal in Action, and #MTLsansprofilage (MSP) came together to co-host a virtual town hall on November 19, 2020. With stakeholders from post-secondary institutions in Canada, including Indigenous, Black, Asian and other racialized professors and students, the conversation focused on the unique challenges Indigenous and racialized Canadians confront in post-secondary institutions. Considerable emphasis was placed on the need to decolonize higher learning in Canada, through understanding the historical relationship between Western ways of knowing and the dispossession of Indigenous land and ancestral knowledge. Speakers addressed the unique ways anti-Black racism is embedded in academic institutions, as well as the inability of institutions to pay justice to Black scholarship and expertise. The underrepresentation and limited opportunities available to Indigenous, Black, Asian and racialized academics were raised as series barriers to the decolonization of institutions of higher learning. Speakers and panellists included:

  • Frances Henry, Professor Emerita, York University, Co-author of The Equity Myth;
  • Aaron Franks, PhD, Senior Manager, OCAP® and Information Governance, First Nations Information Governance Centre;
  • Donna Goodleaf, Director of Decolonizing Curriculum and Pedagogy, Centre for Teaching and Learning, Concordia University; and
  • Malinda Smith, Vice-Provost, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, University of Calgary.

Other speakers were:

  • Anne-Marie Livingstone, Post-Doctoral Scholar at University of Toronto; and
  • Balarama Holness, Founder, Montreal in Action.
Tackling Systemic Racism in Corporate Canada Virtual Town Hall

The Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat, the BlackNorth Initiative, and the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Businesses co-hosted a historic virtual town hall on November 26, 2020. Major Canadian business leaders came together to discuss a crucial theme: supporting Black and Indigenous workers in their companies as well as investing in community-led organizations innovating in the anti-racism space. Eminent leaders of Canada’s Business Community were on hand as speakers and panellists. They included:

  • Dr. Wes Hall, Executive Chairman and Founder, Kingsdale Advisors and Founder and Chairman of the BlackNorth Initiative;
  • Tabatha Bull, CEO and President of CAB;
  • Paul Desmarais III, Chairman and CEO, Sagard Holdings;
  • Mark Mulroney, Vice Chairman, Scotiabank;
  • Alicia Dubois, CEO, Alberta Indigenous Opportunities Corporation; and
  • David Sharpe, CEO, Bridging Finance Inc.

Some business leaders shared personal stories on facing racism in their lives and in the sector. Participants emphasized the need to connect Indigenous and Black-owned businesses with mainstream businesses and banks. Business leaders left the meeting having made commitments to mobilize their respective networks to dismantle systemic racism.

Town Hall on Systemic racism in the Legal Sector

On March 4, 2021, the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat partnered with the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) to host a virtual town hall on the legal sector. The event co-host was Brad Regehr, the first Indigenous President of CBA. Featured panellists were:

  • Abigail Cheung, President, Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (British Columbia) Society;
  • Koren Lightning-Earle Lawyer, Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge, Law Faculty, Alberta University;
  • Faisal Kutty, Principal, Kutty & Associates and Associate Professor of Law Emeritus, Valparaiso University; and
  • Marie-Livia Beaugé, Founder of Montreal-North Legal Clinic and Bon cop Bad cop racial profiling application, Lawyer in criminal law, business law and civil law in racial profiling.

The virtual town hall discussed the ways in which the legal sector can influence and drive change to better support Indigenous, Black, Asian, racialized, and religious minority lawyers and their communities. The focus was on addressing systemic racism, both within the profession and in broader Canadian society. Recommendations included enhancing and standardizing the collection and interpretation of disaggregated data across all law societies, increasing mentorship opportunities, instituting obligatory classes on Indigenous law in Canadian law schools, and reviewing notions of private property through an anti-racism and decolonization lens. Some participants called upon the Government of Canada to collaborate with law societies to collect standardized and systematic disaggregated demographic data, which would cover the entire “lifecycle” of Indigenous, racialized, and religious minority lawyers.

Eliminating Systemic Racism and Discrimination in Health Care Town Hall

On March 16, 2021, the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat co-hosted a town hall with the College of Family Physicians of Canada on the theme: "Eliminating Systemic Racism and Discrimination in Health Care: Identifying Barriers, Generating Sustainable Solutions.” The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer. Other speakers and panellists included:

  • Dr. Francine Lemire, Executive Director and CEO of The College of Family Physicians of Canada
  • Dr. Frantz-Daniel Lafortune, MD, MSc, Canadian Centre for Men and Families
  • Dr. Amanda Sauvé, MD
  • Dr. Amy Tan, MD MSc, College of Family Physicians Canada, (Palliative Care)

Drawing from the Chief Public Health Officer’s Report on the State of Public Health in Canada 2019, Dr. Tam reminded attendees that COVID-19 had revealed deep inequities in Canada, including the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on communities with lived experience of racism. Panellists discussed how adopting a “social determinants of health perspective” is crucial to understanding how the pandemic came to be exacerbated. It does by drawing attention to the ways in which a variety of intersectional considerations impact infectious diseases. The conversation also addressed the effect of COVID-19 on immigrant communities, essential workers, and other populations already vulnerable prior to the pandemic. Systemic racism and other forms of stigma were identified as serious public health issues, and the existence of systemic racism in healthcare was deemed an urgent issue requiring immediate action. Participants conveyed the importance of having access to data that reveals the magnitude of systemic racism in healthcare. They called for the establishment of a national bias-free oversight body, with diverse staff, which can advance anti-oppression and anti-racism in the sector.

Anti-Racism in the Philanthropic Sector Virtual Town Hall

Marking the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat convened a virtual town hall on March 22, 2021. In collaboration with Community Foundations of Canada, Philanthropic Foundations Canada and United Way Centraide Canada, the event explored anti-racism initiatives in the philanthropic sector.

Speakers included:

  • Kris Archie, Chief Executive Officer of the Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada;
  • Liban Abokor, Working Group Member of the Foundation for Black Communities;
  • Jehed Aliweiwi, Executive Director of the Laidlaw Foundation;
  • Joy Bennett, Representative of the Black Opportunity Fund.

Speakers described the sector as an $85-billion industry. Rather than having a resourcing issue, they explained that philanthropy has a redistribution issue. In that regard, panellists and participants called on the sector, which includes government as a funder, to shift from funding short-term projects towards offering sustained holistic operational funding. Participants affirmed that anti-racism work requires an ongoing and intentional commitment to investing in social capital and network building in the communities being served. Others recommended that the philanthropic sector support initiatives that focus on rapid responses to challenges as well as on projects that emphasize changing entire systems by putting Indigenous Peoples, Black and racialized communities at the center of philanthropic endeavours.

Systemic Racism in the Federal Public Service Town Hall

With over 7,000 public servants from across Canada in attendance, the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat hosted a federal public service-wide virtual town hall entitled, Systemic Racism and the Public Service: Moving the Dial Forward. In collaboration with the Canada School of Public Service, the April 16, 2021, event drew an unprecedented number of public servants. Together, they explored ways in which the federal public service can accelerate efforts to better reflect the racial diversity of Canadian society, eradicate systemic racism and find common ground to support Indigenous Peoples and equity-deserving communities across Canada.

Keynote speakers included the Interim Clerk of the Privy Council Office and Secretary to Cabinet Janice Charette and the Interim Deputy Minister of Canadian Heritage and Deputy Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, Gina Wilson. They informed participants about the Clerk’s Call to Action on Anti-Racism, Equity and Inclusion as well as Deputy Minister Commitments on Diversity and Inclusion. Their presentations were followed by a panel discussion. It featured:

  • Anna Fontaine, Visiting Executive, Workplace Wellbeing and Regional Engagement, Knowledge Circle for Indigenous Inclusion, Canadian Heritage
  • Seyi Okuribido-Malcolm, Director, Anti-Racism Implementation, Department of National Defence
  • Winnie Man Yin Pang, Director General, Corporate Secretary, Corporate Secretariat, Women and Gender Equality Canada
  • Jean-Sibert Lapolice, Strategic Engagement and Partnership Lead, Federal Black Employee Caucus

The panel explored ways to advance and sustain commitments to racial diversity and inclusion, from an intersectional perspective, in the federal public service. The formal presentations were then followed by a question and answer period, which delved into effective ways to address systemic racism in the public services and enhance diversity and inclusion.

Systemic Racism in the Settlement Sector Town Hall

On April 23, 2021, the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), co-hosted a virtual town hall on the theme: “Anti-Racism and Newcomers.” The Honourable Bardish Chagger, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, and the Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, delivered opening remarks. A panel was co-moderated by Debbie Douglas, Executive Director of the Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants. Speakers and panellists included:

  • Queenie Choo, CEO of S.U.C.C.E.S.S.
  • Gilbert Lyamuremye, Member of the Overseas Protection and Resettlement Steering Committee, and a leader of the African Refugee Network of the Canadian Council for Refugees
  • Alain Dupuis, Executive Director of the Fédération des communautés Francophones et Acadiennes du Canada
  • Alain Dobi, Director at the Réseau en Immigration Francophone Centre-Sud-Ouest de l'Ontario
  • Stefanie Machado, Member of the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada Youth Advisory Group
  • Aleks Selim Dughman Manzur, Programming Director at Rainbow Refugee Society
  • Marjorie Villefranche, Executive Director of Maison d’Haïti

Participants called on the Government to collaborate with civil society, organizations and immigrant communities, to apply an anti-racism lens to the assessment of federal policies and systems that affect newcomer communities. They affirmed that the federal government should not only provide funding to the sector but also mandate anti-racist policies and practices be implemented by settlement service providers at all levels. Attendees called for long-term anti-racism strategies to be developed for the sector and sustainable funding to be provided for implementation in order to generate long-term measurable impacts. Disaggregated race-based data was highlighted as key to identifying and addressing the systemic barriers experienced by newcomers, irrespective of their immigration status. Participants also recommended the allocation of resources for anti-racist and anti-oppressive training for frontline workers, including IRCC officers, police officers, teachers, bus drivers, and healthcare workers, to ensure culturally safe and trauma-informed practices are used to serve newcomers.

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