Advocates fear for future of province’s anti-racism directorate
What will happen to the province’s anti-racism directorate?
For many who work in anti-racism, this has been the question since June, when Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives won the provincial election with a majority government.
Community members who worked closely with the anti-racism directorate say they’ve received no answers from the government, which controversially moved the directorate to a new ministry and recently disbanded its subcommittees.
Longtime anti-racism advocates who lived through the Mike Harris years are now having flashbacks to 1995, when his Conservative government was elected to Queen’s Park — and promptly moved to eliminate what was then called the anti-racism secretariat, established just a few years earlier.
Two decades would pass before the anti-racism body was revived by the Liberal government in 2016, amid controversy over carding and debate over the acceptance of Syrian refugees. But less than two years into its mandate, the body, this time labelled a “directorate,” has fallen back into the hands of a Conservative government and community activists worry the province’s anti-racism efforts are once again doomed to fail.
“It just feels like 1995 all over again, where we take two steps forward only to go three or four steps backwards,” said Nigel Barriffe, president of the Urban Alliance on Race Relations. “What we see is a very hard, right-wing government that I don’t believe has any intention of honouring the commitment that the previous government has made towards the anti-racism directorate’s strategy.”
There are already early signs that changes are coming to the directorate, which had a number of subcommittees, including four community groups that consulted on issues of anti-Black racism, anti-Indigenous discrimination, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.
In early August, some members of the subcommittees told the Star they were contacted by staff and informed that their services would no longer be needed. “It was basically ‘Yep, your year is up, thank you very much,” said longtime Jewish rights advocate Bernie Farber, who co-chaired the anti-Semitism committee.