Being elected Ottawa’s first-ever Black city councillor, I believe it is necessary to work on issues of significance to racialized communities, including the establishment of an Anti-Racism Secretariat at the City of Ottawa. That’s why I am jubilant that the proposal to establish the Secretariat was accepted and adopted in the City’s 2020 budget.
Once again, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to Mayor Jim Watson and my colleagues at City Council who supported and provided input concerning the proposal. I would also like to thank City staff for all the hard work that they have undertaken and continue to take to make the Secretariat a reality.
The intent of the attached memorandum is to reiterate key points and suggestions that I heard from diverse Ottawa communities during a follow-up public consultation held in November 2019. Many people who participated in that session also contributed to the creation of the Anti-Racism Secretariat proposal. As I truly believe that community support will be critical to the success and credibility of the Secretariat, I am submitting this memorandum for staff consideration.Rawlson King, Councillor Ward 13, Rideau-Rockcliffe
Anti-Racism Secretariat follow-up from the City Manager
The Anti-Racism Secretariat has been funded in the 2020 City Budget to compliment on-going work surrounding women and gender equity in Ottawa. The City has acted to apply for federal grant money to dedicate towards combatting racism and to help augment Secretariat funding. The intent of this memorandum is to reiterate key points and suggestions that heard from community members. Community support for this project will be critical to the success and credibility of the Secretariat.
Two different consultations were held, the first prior to the release of the proposal on 28 August, and the second on 23 November 2019, which was co-hosted by 613/819 Black Hub. The key concerns that they indicated were critical to the development of the Secretariat are as follows:
- City structure and reporting lines
- How the Head of the Secretariat is hired
- Consultation with key stakeholders
- Action and Work Plan
- Secretariat Mandate
I heard repeatedly from community members that the Secretariat should not be housed within the Human Resources section of the City. While the Secretariat should have a critical role in examining the City’s own policies, namely the Equity and Inclusion Lens, this is not the only focus. Ideally the focus is not just on the City’s workforce, although that component is important. Ottawa residents interact with the City on a variety of levels from libraries, transit, by-law officers and many other ways. The community continued to tell us that it was their strong belief that the Head of the Secretariat should report directly to the City Manager for accountability and credibility. Further, I anticipate that the Secretariat will require cooperation from various officials within the City for information gathering and data. If the position reports to you, it sends a strong message to all City staff that the bureaucracy tackling systemic racism seriously.
The lived experience of racism is difficult to articulate. It becomes easier if those discussing their experience feel that the person listening understands what they have experienced on a more visceral level. For this reason, it is critical that the Head of the Secretariat is hired using the best and most current hiring practices, to ensure the position reflects Ottawa’s diversity. I am also hopeful that the proposed intern positions as proposed in the federal grant application would be used to increase exposure to the City’s workforce by Ottawa’s racialized communities.
Consultation with Key Stakeholders
There are many community groups and individuals who have a wealth of knowledge about their communities and the experiences of various community members. As I anticipate that once staffed the Secretariat would seek to more fully consult with the community, I have included as Annex A to this memo a brief list of the organizations, many of whom attached their support to the original proposal, who should be consulted as the work of the Secretariat gets underway.
Action Plan and Work Plan
One of the deficiencies identified by community groups is that while the City of Ottawa has had, for a while, a Diversity and Inclusion Lens policy, there has been no measurement or tracking available. Without data, the City cannot measure progress and therefore cannot be held accountable. It is my continuing expectation that the Secretariat formulates an Action Plan based on consultation with the community; and based upon that Action Plan develops a workplan, to be approved by Council through the normal committee process.
While the mandate of the Secretariat will ultimately be outlined by a Council approved Work Plan developed in conjunction with community, I heard several community service and operational recommendations during public consultations, as well as during sessions with social service organizations that should be relayed for your information and considered during the process of creating the Secretariat.
Recommendations surrounding the improvement of community services at the City of Ottawa for racialized people included:
- Providing public education on issues of racism in the City of Ottawa.
- Investing in arts and culture reflective of the City’s diversity.
- Increasing access to high-quality programs for children and youth.
- Improving quality and availability of City-programmed community mental health services.
- Improving the quality of recreation services.
- Improving food access for low-income racialized people.
- Improving shelter and housing conditions for racialized people and new immigrants.
- Increasing employment and training opportunities at the City of Ottawa.
- Providing mentorship programs as a pathway to employment for racialized people.
- Improving access to high-quality training and employment programs for youth.
- Supporting businesses through development of social procurement policies at the City.
Operational recommendations suggested by community organizations and individuals within racialized communities included:
- Engaging racialized and immigrant communities through the Secretariat to co-design equity solutions and strategies.
- Supporting and maintaining dialogue with leaders and members of racialized and immigrant communities on a range of issues, challenges and opportunities.
- Supporting and building on assets, leadership and expertise of diverse communities.
- Utilizing a diversity of engagement strategies, recognizing the multiple and distinct communities within racialized and immigrant populations, and recognize intersectionalities.
- Undertaking partnerships and support community-led initiatives with racialized and immigrant communities.
- Establishing effective structures and processes for authentic community engagement vis-à-vis the Secretariat.
- Recruiting and retaining diverse senior leaders and management at the City of Ottawa.
- Embedding equity approaches in organizational decision-making criteria.
- Integrating equity practices throughout the City’s policies and procedures, taking account of the specificities of actions needed to address barriers faced by distinct immigrant and racialized communities, such as addressing anti-Black racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
- Developing a clear organizational framework or plan that explains key concepts on equity and sets out organizational goals and actions on equity.
- Incorporating equity and inclusion goals and measures in the performance reviews of managers.
- Providing management training on equity, anti-racism, diversity, inclusion and intersectionality.
- Allocating more human and financial resources to equity work.
- Establishing structures and systems with explicit responsibility to support equity and anti-racism in the organization.
- Analyzing hiring, retention and promotion practices at the City of Ottawa for unintentional barriers and bias.
- Re-designing recruitment, hiring, retention and promotion practices to more effectively recognize skills of racialized people and immigrants, actively recruit from these populations and remove barriers to their access to employment.
- Actively engaging unions in integrating equity and anti-racism considerations into human resource practices.
- Implementing measures that support hiring, retention and promotion of racialized and immigrant employees at the City of Ottawa. This includes measures for racialized and immigrant employees, such as mentoring, coaching, and employee networks or support groups that provide support and advocacy, as well as measures to create a welcoming environment around these employees, such as staff and manager training.
- Integrating equity considerations into the performance management system.
- With community input, re-designing services and service delivery to be more inclusive and to remove institutional biases, recognizing that multiple and varied program designs and delivery mechanisms may be needed.
- Engaging and incentivizing employees to implement re-designed services.
- Working with communities to adapt services to be culturally and linguistically appropriate and culturally safe, considering the experiences and needs of Indigenous, Black, Muslim, Jewish and other specific racialized and immigrant communities.
- Strengthening cultural and anti-oppression competencies of staff.
- Gathering feedback from clients and service users, disaggregating data from all client groups, including racialized and immigrant clients.
- Incorporating measures such as equitable procurement in the delivery of services.
- Value, gather, analyze and use quantitative and qualitative evidence to identify equity barriers, implement improvements, monitor progress towards outcomes, and strengthen accountability.
- Developing clear outcomes, targets and indicators of progress towards, and achievement of, equity for immigrant and racialized leaders, employees and clients of the organization.
- Engaging communities in designing approaches, systems and measures for data collection, analysis and use for accountability and reporting on equity.
- Establishing principles, standards and protocols that protect individuals’ data rights and prioritize community ownership of data.
- Developing effective systems for collecting, analyzing and using data the organization needs (including disaggregated data related to governance and leadership, management, staff, clients and service outcomes) to monitor progress towards equity for racialized and immigrant populations, using an intersectional approach.
- Reporting on progress within and outside the organization, including to the community, and engaging communities in analyzing the data and developing improved strategies based on the data.
- Developing linkages between the Ottawa Policy Services Equity, Diversity and Inclusion unit and the Secretariat to share information and best practices
- Creating linkages between the four Public School Boards and the City to foster dialogue concerning equity and racialized student performance.
- Creating an educational campaign to address racism and intolerance City-wide and to describe the City services available to racialized people.
- Formalize linkages between “United For All” and other anti-racism organizations and initiatives.
Discussion about the creation of the Secretariat has already created hope for many in Ottawa’s racialized community that their experiences and concerns will be taken seriously by the City. I hope that their suggestions as outlined above will be reflected in the creation of the Secretariat to ensure the policy unit’s success.
KEY COMMUNITY ORGANISATIONS FOR CONSULTATION
• Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership (OLIP)
• Equity Ottawa
• City of Toronto’s Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit
• African Canadian Association of Ottawa
• Assunnah Muslim Association
• Black Ottawa Business Network
• 613/819 Black Hub
• Black History Ottawa
• Canadian Anti-Hate Network
• Conseil Economique & Social d’Ottawa Carleton (CESOC)
• Federal Black Employee Caucus
• Islam Care Centre
• Kanata Muslim Association
• Muslim Association of Canada – Ottawa Chapter
• National Council of Canadian Muslims
• Ottawa Muslim Association
• Jewish Family Services of Ottawa
• Somerset West Community Health Centre
• United For Children & Youth
• Black Agenda Noir (BAN)
• City for All Women Initative (CAWI)
• Alliance des Burundais du Canada
• Jewish Federation of Ottawa
• Canadian Somali Mothers Association
• Canadians United Against Hate
• Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs
• Coalition of the Community Health and Resource Centres of Ottawa
• Crime Prevention Ottawa
• Muslim Link
• Ottawa Aboriginal Coalition
• Ottawa Child and Youth Initiative
• Ottawa Coalition of Community Houses
• Ottawa Police Service
• Ottawa Senior Pride Network
• Ottawa-Carleton District School Board
• Ottawa Catholic School Board
• Conseil des écoles publiques de l’Est de l’Ontario
• Conseil scolaire de district catholique de l’Est ontarien
• Social Planning Council
• South Nepean Muslim Centre
• Refugee 613
• United Muslim Organizations of Ottawa and Gatineau
• United Way East Ontario