Kitchener city council planning creation of anti-racism team
KITCHENER -- A report set to be tabled at Kitchener city council next week plans to create change within the organization with a new anti-racism team.
Officials hope the team will help connect with marginalized members of the community and help tackle systemic racism.
The report calls for five new permanent positions, dedicated to working on equity, anti-racism, Indigenous initiatives and social justice issues.
“This is going to be a significant opportunity for council and the community to demonstrate their commitment to change and to addressing the issues that are important and critical in our community,” said Barry Vrbanovic, mayor of Kitchener.
The group would consist of a director, senior Indigenous advisor, senior anti-Racism advisor, an analyst and social planning associate.
The team would provide leadership at a senior level, working alongside the existing Diversity Task Force.
The proposed budget for the new permanent positions is set at more $500,000 spread out over the next two years. The mayor says these new roles are vital, and the city is committed to working the cost into the 2021 budget
“I do not have lived experience in these areas, our staff, while some of the certainly have some experience, the ones leading this do not live experience in this area. Getting the right team in place is so critically important at this time,” said Vrbanovic.
The mayors of Waterloo and Cambridge echoed this sentiment, working with their own internal diversity, equity and inclusion committees.
Working with local activist groups like the African Caribbean Network and the Land Back Camp at Victoria Park, the city is hoping to repair relationships and keep moving forward.
“Anybody who lived experience of anti-Black or anti-Indigenous racism or any people of colour who've experienced marginalization that this feels like it's late in the game, and I can understand their frustration. The city is doing what we can to hurry this along,” said Sarah Marsh, Ward 10 Councillor with the City of Kitchener.
“I hope that this is the beginning of a step towards addressing anti-black, anti-indigenous racism and violence in their own cities,” said Amy Smoke, the co-organizer of the Land Back Camp.
If the proposal gets the green light on Monday, the hiring process is set to begin in early 2021.