The Justice for Abdirahman Coalition welcomes the recently released report on “Addressing Anti-Black Racism in Ottawa” by the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership (OLIP), City for All Women Initiative (CAWI) and local Black community members. We strongly support the content and recommendations presented in the report and believe that its release comes at a critical moment for our city and country as we are confronted daily with the reality of prejudice and discrimination targeted at segments of our society.
The report comes on the heels of a community forum held in August 9th of last year, which brought together members of the Black community, including professionals, community leaders and social activists, to express themselves and share real life stories of how anti-Black racism affects their lives. Many of the stories were heartbreaking; such as the anecdotes of young Black men who have felt particularly targeted by police and the subsequent impact of navigating emotions that surfaced from the injustice they were subjected to. While the report provides participants with validation of their experiences as well as a tangible result, more importantly, this report presents an opportunity to begin a conversation around addressing the key issues that they identified.
There are many parallels that can be drawn from the findings in this report and the calls to action that the Coalition has been advocating since its inception. Among these parallels is the particular finding regarding Recognition of Anti-Black Racism, Accountability, and Oversight of Institutions. The need to acknowledge anti-Black racism is an issue brought to the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) Chief of Police by the Coalition in our first meeting with OPS in August of 2016. We also tabled the same concern at the Police Services Board meeting in January of 2017 along with a call for OPS to acknowledge the problem of racism and to commit to a third party external audit of its diversity and equity practices.
Concerning the oversight of institutions, the Coalition strongly believes that a full overhaul of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is required. We provided a detailed report with recommendations to this effect to Justice Michael Tulloch in October of 2016. That report and its recommendations are available on our website. The Coalition is in agreement that dedicated resources are required to train on race relations, to combat racial profiling and to institute long term data collection and analysis. We also support the call for reforms to the Police Services Act. To address this, we met with the Attorney General of Ontario in January of 2017 to propose some reform options for the Police Services Act.
As well, in December of 2016, the Coalition submitted a report to the Government of Ontario’s Anti-Racism Directorate pertaining to identifying and addressing various forms of institutional racism across sectors in Ontario. Our recommendations echo the ones brought forth by OLIP that require immediate action, particularly in the areas of education, employment, criminal justice, social services and healthcare. The Coalition, as well as other members of the Somali community, is currently formulating strategies for a working group with the Mayor and other city officials in order to tackle issues affecting our community in these areas.
Lastly, the Coalition is calling on Ottawa City Council to pay close attention to this report along with its recommendations regarding addressing anti-Black racism in Ottawa. Additionally, we would like to see more Councillors at table discussions concerning this issue. It is disappointing that only a few of Councillors seem to be interested or engaged in an issue that impacts so many of our city’s residents. The Ottawa City Council has a responsibility to take on and address the scourge of racism and discrimination in our city and to ensure that all residents of our city are treated with fairness, dignity and equality.