Councillor Shaw and members of the Advisory Committee, on behalf of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, thank you very much for the opportunity to make this presentation.
Very briefly, as most of you are likely aware, and as may be seen in the brochures we have provided, the Foundation was established in 1996 by an Act of Parliament. It was a negotiated part of the Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement, which was reached in 1988. Our principal mission includes building a national framework for the fight against racism and providing independent and outspoken national leadership, and to act as a resource in the cause of equity and social justice.
The Foundation wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to appear before you because, as the largest city in Canada, and home to the most diverse population in the country - perhaps in the world - we believe that the City of Toronto is in a position to set the standard by which many cities respect and value their diversity.
We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that, overall, the City of Toronto has made significant efforts to improve accessibility to its services by all and to try to improve the climate of inter-community relations. But, the fact that you are holding these consultations suggests that you appreciate that there is room for improvement. Indeed, we would agree there is.
But we would also be remiss if we didn't try to impart the sense of frustration that many in the community feel, given that there have been consultations in all of these areas, over and over again. And, still, whenever the budget needs to be trimmed, among the first to go are access and equity services and support for the infrastructure of these services. The reports that the City has commissioned in many of the
areas on which you're consulting are there. Most of them are still relevant.
For example, a study in 1996 on "The Nature and Extent of Racism and Hate Activity in Toronto" by Dr Karen Mock, who is now the Foundation's executive director, and The Orenstein Report in 2000 are just two.
It perhaps speaks to a serious lack of monitoring or auditing procedures which would not only monitor and assess progress on these issues, but provide the public with an annual report on their status. That, Madam Chair, would be one of our recommendations.
Given the need to be brief, the Foundation wishes to focus on a couple of other issues. The first, is the perception - and quite likely the reality - that Council is not using all the means at its disposal to lobby vigorously for the resources it needs. This is true especially when it comes to supporting the settlement of immigrants and refugees and proactive initiatives to counter hate and racist crime, as well as to promote social cohesion and equal access to services.
Second: We believe that the City should make more use of racialized minority entrepreneurs in its promotions which would serve to support the fact that immigrants and minorities contribute significantly to the economy of the city.
Madam Chair, as we see it, given its size, its diversity, the fact that more people choose to reside in Toronto than anywhere else in Canada, and that it is urgent that newcomers be made to feel more at home in a strange city - we believe that Council has to become more vocal and more assertive in obtaining from the other levels of government what is necessary to accomplish these goals. Perhaps the time has come for Council to strategize on how to become more political when it comes to dealing with other levels of government, and how to work effectively with - and empower - community groups to do so as well.
We are sure that most, if not all, of you would agree that immigrants and refugee claimants want to begin to contribute - to get to work - as quickly as possible, to get settled in as quickly as possible. Two things haven't changed about newcomers: They want to work, and most of them want to own their own home. If there is a boom in the sale of new homes in Toronto, chances are it is because of the new immigrants' need to fulfil that obligation to their families.
Madam Chair, last year the Foundation published a report called UNEQUAL ACCESS: A Canadian Profile of Racial Differences in Education, Employment and Income, prepared by the Canadian Council on Social Development (and we have provided you with a copy). That report confirmed a suspicion that discrimination in the workplace continues to exist in frightening proportions, but that it has become more subtle. In other words, cliques still develop in the workplace from which promotions are made and, more often than not, the cliques of influence are, for the most part, white.
The report also points to the fact that the higher up in the hierarchy you go, the less likely you will find a person of colour or an Aboriginal. And, here is the critical point that we wish to make: The Unequal Access report observed that there were a few cases in which members of racialized groups were CEO's. As it happened, the majority of those CEO's owned the company.
When one opens the business pages of the local media, unless a company is dealing in millions of dollars, there is very little if any information about the small businesses which are surviving, notwithstanding the vagaries of the market. Many of the companies are owned by members of racialized groups who are contributing to the well-being of the City of Toronto, AND the GTA for that matter.
Our RECOMMENDATION therefore, Madam Chair, is that the City explore ways in which companies like these can be included in the City's promotional activities to demonstrate the fact that racialized groups contribute significantly to the growth and well-being of the City of Toronto.
Finally, Madam Chair, I would sincerely hope that Council has not ignored itself in availing itself of very practical diversity, anti-racism and cultural awareness training. And, to this end, we would like to offer the services and resources of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation.
I will also draw your attention to the NGO Forum Position Paper, which the Foundation prepared in consultation with various communities, in preparation for the Durban Conference last September. The Canadian Race Relations Foundation stands ready to assist the City wherever we can. As I have already indicated, it is part of our mandate to develop partnerships in this very important struggle for equality, harmony and social justice for all.
Towards a City of Toronto Plan of Action for the Elimination of Racism and all forms of Discrimination (PDF format - 150KB)
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