The Barrie Anti-Racism Task Force launched its website (https://barrieantiracism.ca) on January 24th at City Hall. The creation of the website started on June 29th, 2020 when Barrie City Council, then led by then Mayor Jeff Lehman, approved the initiative. The project was sponsored by Barrie Police and Barrie-based Siva Creative donated the website. During the event, Mayor Alex Nuttall delivered a speech and the Task Force gave a presentation.
“Barrie is no longer what it used to be like 10-15 years ago. A lot of new comers and immigrants have moved in,” said Esther Nkoli Enyolu, co-chair of the task force to Barrie Community Media after the event. “So, we want to make the city a welcoming place where everyone here feels a sense of belonging and can contribute to the welfare of the city.”
Nuttall said we want to have a city where “everybody feels included, everyone feels safe and at home, and everybody can find the success that they’re looking forward.”
The task force worked with police services, school boards, community groups, municipal organizations, social services, businesses, labor and government agencies in order to facilitate an understanding and appreciation of the diverse population in the City of Barrie.
Cheryl Blondell-King, a task force member, said “it becomes more and more important that the agencies social services, commercial organizations, and other groups reflect, understand and appreciate and embrace the city and its diversity.” She said the goal is to transition Barrie into an anti-racist city that intentionally addresses racism in all forms and develop initiatives that will move them forward. They hope to do this through dialogue, education, openness and their life experiences.
Another task force member Masa Sone said that the task force plans to organize a seminar with the library on racism featuring guest speakers. The seminar will be open to the public, and hopefully will stimulate an evening of lively discussion. “We at the anti racism Task Force take a keen interest in the well being of international students at Georgian College,“ she said the force strongly wish to work with the town and gown city Advisory Committee on the issues
Brandon Wu and Haily MacDonald, members of the task force, explained what terms such as race, racial bias, racism, racial discrimination and anti-racism mean.
Wu said in a perfect world, race would not matter and everyone would be accepting of diversity. “Unfortunately, the reality of our world is that race does matter,” he said.
He continued that race is socially constructed and how we identify with race and how people identify us based on race can vary. He asked audience to ponder on a series of questions. Do you personally identify based on race? If so, what terminology do you use or are you familiar with?
MacDonald asked Barrie residents to take an anti-racism pledge. She said the taskforce has identified several focus areas to help people learn more about different cultures, practices, and beliefs of diverse races in their community. She asked researching anti-racism resources at the local library, learning about the history of racially diverse peoples across Simcoe County, learning about local treaties, using words and actions to create inclusive spaces, properly pronouncing names and words, attending and promoting culturally diverse events and celebrations, reflecting on local initiatives that promote equity, and checking out the United Nations calendar for important dates.
“When we’re talking about racism, we’re talking about power that that gives a race of benefit over other races, and looking at how those that power plays out in our institutions like City Hall, in the schools, and in universities, and in workplaces,” she said.