Hundreds of concerned citizens, including black activists, showed up last Thursday at the first public meeting called by the recently-formed Ontario anti-racism directorate to discuss issues related to systemic racism.
Addressing the meeting, amid some heckling, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynn told the gathering at Daniels Spectrum in Regent Park that ” this is not a new conversation.”
She said governments need to do more to battle discrimination.
Wynn said she believes that governments haven’t gone far enough to create a more equitable society.
“I understand that government institutions have not lived up to that,” she noted, adding that ” part of doing my job is acknowledging that we haven’t done enough.”
British-born Minister of Children and Youth Services Michael Coteau who is responsible for the Ontario anti-racism directorate, also addressed the gathering.
His disclosure, in answer to a question from the audience, that the budget for the directorate was $5-million drew cynical response.
“Five million dollars is peanuts,” said Rinaldo Walcott, an associate professor at the University of Toronto.
Toronto Mayor John Tory who was present at the meeting, was shouted down when he first attempted to address the crowd.
But Desmond Cole, a journalist who was the target of police racial profiling and carding called the mayor back to the microphone. Cole wanted to know where Tory was when the activist group Black Lives Matter Toronto was camped out in the cold for 15 days. He told the mayor that the community is very disappointed in his tenure so far.
“You’re right. I should have been there,” said Tory.
At the meeting which lasted about four hours, there were shouts of ” black lives matter” as people spoke.Many were critical of government officials , saying that not enough concrete action has been taken to deal with racism.
Akua Benjamin. Professor of Social Work at Ryerson University, was the first at the microphone during the open consultation period of the meeting.
She praised Black Lives Matter Toronto for calling for the public meeting.