Mayor's Message on Anti-Racism - December 18, 2020
No matter whether you are an individual, an organization or a government body, I’m certain that you have had your eyes opened recently to how severe the inequities and injustices are in this country towards those who are Black, Indigenous or People of Colour. Even those of us who thought we were doing a good job have come to the unsettling realization that we could be doing much better, and that we have made mistakes.
Earlier this week an article appeared in the Globe & Mail, recounting the outcome of a Human Rights Tribunal complaint regarding the Town’s actions towards two Black youth that had been involved in a fight at the Leisure Centre in 2017. The Tribunal found that the length of their suspension was influenced by racial bias.
The spirit of my comment to the Globe and Mail reporter was somewhat lost in the retelling – we did in fact believe that our policies and practices were fair and unbiased. We thought that we had given our staff the tools to make the best possible decisions. The presence of unconscious bias was – as the term implies – going unnoticed, but now that we are aware of the issues, we are deeply committed to correcting them.
Earlier this summer I began meeting with people from the community, including the leaders of the protests that took place here in town following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. This group, which includes members of the BWG Diversity Action Group and local Black leaders, has evolved into the Mayor’s Anti-Racism Advisory Panel. The aim of the panel is to provide a forum for stakeholders in the local Black and People of Colour communities to share their views and experiences, and to advise me and my fellow councillors on the development, implementation and monitoring of Town policies, programs and initiatives that support anti-racism efforts in the municipality and beyond. On the advice of this group, I have also established a youth panel to seek their input and listen to their concerns.
This week, Town of BWG Council members gave their resounding support to the first product of the panel – the BWG Equity and Inclusiveness Action Plan. This plan outlines 21 actions that we will be undertaking at the Town of BWG to drive us towards a better future for the Black and racialized members of our town. It is important to recognize that this plan is a beginning, and certainly not the end of the conversations and improvements we intend to undertake, but it is a very important place to start. The Action Plan is available for review at this link; please have a look and share your comments with us.
The Town launched an Equity and Inclusiveness review in early 2020, through independent consultant Tana Turner. There will be another opportunity to participate in an online input session with Tana in the New Year – please watch the Town’s social media for details on how to take part.
Every time I meet with or hear from a resident, I learn more about what is important to you and what we can do as a Town to support you. I hope that we can continue to work together to make this a community we can all be proud of.
Mayor Rob Keffer