Anti-Racism Initiative

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This project supports the Region of Waterloo's strategic focus area(s): An icon representing the Region's strategic focus area Healthy, safe and inclusive communities.

Racism exists in Canada and Waterloo Region. It requires real action, not a political response alone.

We acknowledge that we are far from where we need to be. We have to address racism in all its forms. It is our duty as elected officials, public servants, and human beings, to focus our efforts in working together to make real progress in our fight towards diversity and inclusion. This includes (but is not limited to), speaking out and working to change systematic racism — specifically towards our Black and Indigenous communities. “Systemic racism”, or “institutional racism”, refers to how ideas of white superiority are captured in everyday thinking at a systems level. These systems can include policies, laws and regulations, but also unquestioned social systems. Systemic racism can stem from education, hiring practices or access, which result in the exclusion or promotion of a designated group.

One of the Council’s areas of focus is: Healthy, Safe and Inclusive Communities. To achieve this, we have heard from the community that we need to make meaningful changes in programs, services, and policies, in order to address systematic racism and oppression in a meaningful and impactful way.

Over Summer 2020, Fall 2020 and Winter 2020/2021 Regional Council solicited input from the community to inform recommendations for an Anti- Racism plan and Secretariat in the following ways:

  • Holding a Town Hall Meeting on July 30, 2020 at 6 p.m. Due to high interest the session will continue on Friday July 31, 2020 at 10 a.m.
  • An open survey over the summer to solicit input in the development of the Anti-Racism plan and Secretariat. The survey closed on August 28, 2020.
  • Recruiting for an Anti Racism Advisory Working Group during Fall 2020.
  • Anti Racism Advisory Working Group members were announced November 21th, 2020.
  • The Anti-Racism Advisory Working Group had its first inaugural meeting on December 21st, 2020 and continues to meet during 2021.


This project supports the Region of Waterloo's strategic focus area(s): An icon representing the Region's strategic focus area Healthy, safe and inclusive communities.

Racism exists in Canada and Waterloo Region. It requires real action, not a political response alone.

We acknowledge that we are far from where we need to be. We have to address racism in all its forms. It is our duty as elected officials, public servants, and human beings, to focus our efforts in working together to make real progress in our fight towards diversity and inclusion. This includes (but is not limited to), speaking out and working to change systematic racism — specifically towards our Black and Indigenous communities. “Systemic racism”, or “institutional racism”, refers to how ideas of white superiority are captured in everyday thinking at a systems level. These systems can include policies, laws and regulations, but also unquestioned social systems. Systemic racism can stem from education, hiring practices or access, which result in the exclusion or promotion of a designated group.

One of the Council’s areas of focus is: Healthy, Safe and Inclusive Communities. To achieve this, we have heard from the community that we need to make meaningful changes in programs, services, and policies, in order to address systematic racism and oppression in a meaningful and impactful way.

Over Summer 2020, Fall 2020 and Winter 2020/2021 Regional Council solicited input from the community to inform recommendations for an Anti- Racism plan and Secretariat in the following ways:

  • Holding a Town Hall Meeting on July 30, 2020 at 6 p.m. Due to high interest the session will continue on Friday July 31, 2020 at 10 a.m.
  • An open survey over the summer to solicit input in the development of the Anti-Racism plan and Secretariat. The survey closed on August 28, 2020.
  • Recruiting for an Anti Racism Advisory Working Group during Fall 2020.
  • Anti Racism Advisory Working Group members were announced November 21th, 2020.
  • The Anti-Racism Advisory Working Group had its first inaugural meeting on December 21st, 2020 and continues to meet during 2021.


  • Anti-Racism Advisory Working Group Update on Activities

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    Prepared by the Region of Waterloo Anti Racism Advisory Working Group

    The Anti-Racism Advisory Working Group has been meeting regularly since January 2021, to discuss issues pertaining to the Black Indigenous People of Colour (BIPOC) community in the Region of Waterloo.

    The ARAWG intends to be proactive and transformational. It has collaboratively created the following recommendations to Council based on the collective knowledge, experience, and research of its members.

    The ARAWG is unanimous in its support of this report.

    Anti-Racism Advisory Working Group Recommendations

    Hiring Practices

    Background:

    Best practices and data support the fact that a diverse workforce is necessary to created an Anti-Racist working environment. Historically, the Region of Waterloo has lacked racialized leadership and staffing at all levels of employment. Staffing surveys will reveal evidence that the staffing complement requires more diversity.

    Recommendations:

    1. By the end of 2022, the Region of Waterloo’s Human Resources Department must implement policies to hold equivalent other methods of experience/education beyond the current practice of only accepting formalized education degrees and certificates. This includes:
      1. Acknowledging that within Indigenous communities life experiences, community connections and other ways of knowing are integral to the culture, and must be highly valued by the Region;
      2. Addressing the issue of equivalence for non-Canadian qualifications, and working to understand and value international accreditation;
      3. Creating a hiring policy that actively seeks out the lived experiences and community-based work of BIPOC communities as accepted qualifications.
    2. Create targeted hiring practices to increase the amount of BIPOC staff at the Region of Waterloo.
    1. The current system is not accessible to certain populations, and must be amended to improve accessibility to the process from start to finish

    2. Set hiring targets so that
      1. The demographic makeup of Regional staff is directly and proportionally reflective of the ethnic population of the Region of Waterloo, updating this target on an ongoing basis as census information is gathered;
      2. Under-represented and intersectionality marginalized groups such as Indigenous and Black communities are given priority for specific roles. This is an immediate need as the status quo breeds violence against Indigenous and Black identities and thus excludes them from the workplace.

    3. The Region of Waterloo must commit to completing a staff census every 2 years to determine growth, patterns and gaps/achievements

    Mental Health and Emergency Response

    Background:

    In recent years, the racializing of individuals and especially those in mental health distress have disproportionately resulted in death or injury by a police officer. There are few opportunities to access appropriate services and police are often called to these situations. Waterloo Regional Police Services have publicly stated on occasion that they do not have capacity for mental health calls and are often ill equipped.

    Recommendations:

    1. The Region of Waterloo must create and implement non-police based responses to mental health crises. Should a police presence be required, officers on site should be unarmed and serve as support, not as the primary intervenor for de-escalation.
    2. This would involve the formation of Crisis Intervention Teams with specially trained health and crisis response professionals including Mental Health Nurses. Such teams must be a collaboration between the Waterloo Regional Police Service, Public Health and local health-focused non-profits that have a proven track record of working positively in BIPOC communities. Response should include wraparound care such as:
        1. Training for emergency dispatch responders
        2. Training for all staff involved in Emergency Response
        3. Follow up care and mental health supports
    3. Immediate training needs to be provided for relevant non-profit staff and all current first responders, including police, so that teams can be formed in a timely manner to prevent response with force, weapons or intimidation. Data must be reviewed on an ongoing basis to ensure that there are enough teams available for response. Lives should not be risked by having untrained people responding at any time.

    Regional Funding

    Recommendations:

    1. Regional funding for Indigenous initiatives must be offered only to Indigenous organizations. Funding should not be allocated to mainstream organizations which do not represent the Indigenous community at large. To bypass Indigenous organizations when seeking solutions to social issues is systemic racism.
    2. The Region, in consultation with Indigenous organizations, must actively advocate for all federal funding available for Indigenous initiatives and ensure that it is provided to Indigenous service providers. There are existing organizations such as K-W Urban Native Wigwam, the Healing of the Seven Generations, Anishnabeg Outreach, LandBack and White Owl Native Ancestry Association which should be consulted at all stages of the process.

    Space for Indigenous Groups

    Recommendations:

    1. By the end of 2021, the Region of Waterloo must be in consistent and ongoing consultation with Indigenous organizations about the availability of community space. There needs to be respectful dialogue in a process that is Indigenous led.

    Director Reconciliation, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

    Recommendations:

    1. The role of the Director of Reconciliation and Equity, Diversity and Inclusion should be two separate roles. Reconciliation is NOT the same as Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and must be given the attention and expertise it deserves. We recommend two equal positions;
        1. Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
        2. Director of Reconciliation
    2. Both the Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and Director of Reconciliation should report only to the Chief Administrator of the Region of Waterloo.
        1. It is important that both directors work with both the CAO and the Chief Communications and Strategy Officer. However, they must be answerable only to the CAO. Communications is tasked with ensuring that the Region has a positive public image. The Director of Reconciliation and the Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion will be tasked with systemic change and may need to communicate difficult non-complimentary messages.

    This separation is necessary and vital to maintaining the integrity of these positions.

  • 2021 Community Innovation Grant

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    by Isi Nezic ,

    The Community Innovation Grants (CIG) Program has been established to harness this creative energy - to foster new collaborations and partnerships, to build on and strengthen existing ones, and to find and develop new sustainable approaches to addressing social, health, cultural, economic, environmental and other needs in Waterloo Region.

    For the 2021 CIG Program the Regional Municipality of Waterloo will use Strategic Focus Area: Healthy, Safe and Inclusive Communities, with a specific focus on removing barriers to connectivity and learning for the Region’s Black and Indigenous and racialized youth population, created as a result of the pandemic.

    The CIG program includes $50,000, where the Region of Waterloo can decide:

    • To award the entire annual budget of $50,000 to support one eligible proposal
    • To award lesser amounts to several eligible proposals up to the maximum budget of $50,000

    Application Deadline: Monday September 20, 2021 at 4:00pm

    To learn more and submit your application please visit the Region of Waterloo website.

  • Statement from ARAWG Co-Convenors: Kamloops, BC Residential School

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    by Isi Nezic ,

    On the weekend of May 30, 2021 news was released that the bodies of 215 children were found in unmarked graves at Kamloops Indian Residential School. While this may have been news to the settler population of Canada, this news was common knowledge within First Nations, Metis and Inuit communities. Amid an unearthing of the 215 bodies, our collective words seem weak and useless. Our grief cannot bring back those lives. We need to act. We need to do differently. First Nations, Metis and Inuit historic relations with a colonial and white supremacist government has been fraught with disposition and oppression, with a clear intent to assimilate. As a result, genocide was and continues to be committed towards First Nations, Metis, and Inuit within Canada. As you take a moment of silence to mourn the loss of 215 young lives at the hands of a colonial and white supremacist structure, we ask that you take the next moment to determine a course of action. While truths continue to be told and evidence begins to mount outside of the oral traditions of First Nations, Metis and Inuit, we invite you to engage in an individual and collective course of action. Individually, increase your knowledge base of legislation and the colonial systems that imposed oppression. Read the entire Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, not just the Action Items. Collectively, review and revise your own systems of oppression to encourage more diversity and equity. Today, as the Anti Racism Advisory Working Group tasked by Regional Council, we call on the Region of Waterloo and Regional officials to take remedial action. Make it your mandate to establish an allocation of funds to address Indigenous realities in our Region that are grounded in oppression and inequity. Make it your mandate to seek a more intentional working relationship between regional services and Indigenous peoples and groups. Today, as the Anti-Racism Advisory Working Group of the Waterloo Region, we ask you, as individuals across our Region, to take account of the ways in which your actions or your inactions, your silence, or your words, have implicated you in injustice. Today we ask you to pause for a moment and listen to the voices of lives lost at the hands of a colonial and racist system and then do differently. We need both individual and collective action in order to realize meaningful change for all nations across Turtle Island (Canada).


    ARAWG Co-Convenors

    Kathy Hogarth

    Donna Dubie

  • ARAWG - Jan 13th 2021 update

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    by Isi Nezic ,

    ARAWG Meeting 2021-1

    On Tuesday, January 5th, 2021, the Anti Racism Advisory Working Group (ARAWG) convened for its first meeting of the year.

    The Terms of Reference drafted by the ARAWG selection committee represent the guiding principles of the ARAWG. The meeting focused on the terms of reference , in order to ensure alignment with the stated mandate and responsibilities. Given the potentially broad scope of the engagement and directed opportunity for actual ARAWG Member feedback, the Working Group will finalize the Terms of Reference in the coming weeks, ensuring it is principled in an anti-oppressive and inclusive framework.

    Concurrent to the review of the Terms of Reference is the review of the status of equity work in the Region and its respective agencies, the Municipalities and Townships.

    As part of the pandemic response and recovery efforts, the Region of Waterloo has formed a COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force, which will draw on expertise of staff from several agencies. The Task Force will ensure that an efficient, equitable plan is in place for delivery of the immunization program. The Region has invited two members of ARAWG to join the community engagement working group to the Task Force. Maedith Radlein and Tammy Webster will represent the ARAWG. ARAWG involvement earmarks the importance of inclusion in Regional program delivery.

    The ARAWG will conduct meetings every three weeks – virtual meetings, at this time.

    Geraldine Stafford - Co-Convener

    About the Anti Racism Advisory Working Group

    The ARAWG will provide recommendations, advice and information to the Region of Waterloo Council related to the development and implementation of an Anti-Racism Plan to eliminate systemic racism within the workplace and the services delivered by the Region.

    The selection committee chose applicants for a two-year term based on their history of community engagement; personal lived experience and interest; and experience using an anti-racism and anti-oppressive lens in activities/projects. ARAWG Members include Kathy Hogarth, Victoria Oywak, Tammy Webster, Amy Smoke, Ciann Wilson, Fauzia Mazhar, Donna Dubie, Geraldine Stafford, Cheyanne Thorpe, Krishna Karur Badrinarayan, and Maedith Radlein.

  • December 21st Update - First Anti-Racism Advisory Working Group Meeting

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    by Isi Nezic ,

    On Monday December 14th, 2020 the Anti-Racism Advisory Working Group (ARAWG) had their first meeting.

    In attendance were:

    • Kathy Hogarth, Tammy Webster, Amy Smoke, Ciann Wilson, Fauzia Mazhar, Donna Dubie, Geraldine L. Stafford, Cheyanne Thorpe, Krishna Karur Badrinarayan, and Maedith Radlein;
    • Selection Committee Members: Omi Ra, Ismail Mohamed, Jean Becker, Grace Ibrahima and Lois MacDonald;
    • Chair Karen Redman;
    • Bruce Lauckner, Region of Waterloo Chief Administrative Officer and;
    • Connie MacDonald, Region of Waterloo Chief Communications and Strategy Officer.

    During this introductory meeting, members the ARAWG spent the time building rapport, a necessary foundation for the collaborative work that they will be doing together. The group is excited and looking forward to their shared work together.

    The next meeting will be scheduled either late December 2020 or in January 2021.

  • November 27th - Anti-Racism Advisory Working Group (ARAWG) Members Selected

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    by Isi Nezic ,

    A community-led selection committee comprised of Omi Ra, Ismail Mohamed, Jean Becker, Grace Ibrahima, and Lois MacDonald has selected 11 members for the Region’s ARAWG. Selection committee members chose applicants based on their: history of community engagement; personal lived experience and interest; and experience using an anti-racism and anti-oppressive lens in activities/projects.

    Members of the ARAWG were publicly announced Friday November 13th, 2020. We would like to welcome the following members of the new ARAWG for a two-year term: Kathy Hogarth, Victoria Oywak, Tammy Webster, Amy Smoke, Ciann Wilson, Fauzia Mazhar, Donna Dubie, Geraldine L. Stafford, Cheyanne Thorpe, Krishna Karur Badrinarayan, and Maedith Radlein.

    The ARAWG will provide recommendations, advice and information to the Region of Waterloo Council related to the development and implementation of an Anti-Racism Plan to eliminate systemic racism within the workplace and the services delivered by the Region. Additionally, the ARAWG will have its inaugural meeting in early December 2020. .

    To view the full press release regarding the selection of ARAWG members please visit the following page.

  • October 30th- Update on Anti-Racism Advisory Working Group Applications

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    by Isi Nezic ,

    The Selection Committee comprised of Omi Ra, Ismail Mohamed, Jean Becker, Grace Ibrahima, and Lois MacDonald had two meetings on October 14th and October 26th to discuss applications for the Anti-Racism Advisory Working Group.

    Selection Committee members assessed which applicants are possible candidates for the working group by referring to previously stated criteria of:

    • history of community engagement;
    • personal lived experience and interest;
    • experience using an Anti-Racism and Anti-Oppressive (ARAO) lens in activities/projects.


    The Selection Committee has narrowed down possible candidates; however, they will need to have one final meeting on Monday, November 2nd, 2020, to finalize the 11 members Anti-Racism Advisory Working Group. The Working Group is still expected to have its first meeting by the end of November 2020.

    Thank you for your patience as we navigate the Working Group. The Anti-Racism Advisory Working Group's future members will play a significant role by providing Regional Council recommendations through a Regional Anti-Racism Plan.

  • October 15th- Update on Anti-Racism Advisory Working Group Applications

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    by Isi Nezic ,

    We want to thank all applicants for taking their valuable time to apply to be a member of the Anti-Racism Advisory Working Group. We had an overwhelming response of 73 applications from BIPOC community members and Allies, who are all incredibly passionate, qualified and bring their lived experience to help the Region of Waterloo address racism in the Waterloo Region.

    Selection Committee are Omi Ra (previously known as Victoria Rodney), Ismail Mohamed, Jean Becker, Grace Ibrahima and Lois MacDonald. They will need more time to thoroughly review all the applications and see how each applicant can bring their unique perspective, experience, and skills to the 11 member Anti-Racism Advisory Working Group. The Selection Committee is expecting to finalize the Working Group’s composition by Friday October 30th, 2020. Before this date, if clarification is needed, Selection Committee members will connect with the applicants by phone.

    The entire Anti-Racism Advisory Working Group will have its first meeting at the end of November 2020.

    Please visit the Anti-Racism Initiative Engage Page to subscribe to updates under the “Stay Informed” widget. The subscribe button can be found in the top right corner of the age. This will add you to the newsletter mailing list so you can stay up to date regarding the status of the initiative.

    Once again, thank you!

  • September 17, 2020 Selection Committee Update and Anti-Racism Advisory Working Group Application

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    by Isi Nezic ,

    The Selection Committee comprised of Victoria Rodney, Ismail Mohamed, Jean Becker, Grace Ibrahima and Lois MacDonald held meetings on August 26, September 2 and September 11, 2020. The group discussed and updated the terms of reference and the application for the Anti-Racism Working Group. The Selection Committee determined that the Anti-Racism Advisory Working Group will consist of 11 members for a term of two years and that a Co-Convenor model will be used for the Working Group. This model is used by Waterloo Region Wellbeing and involves selecting two members of the Working Group to facilitate the meetings.

    If you are interested in applying to be a member of the Anti-Racism Advisory Working Group, please review the terms of reference and complete the following form (click "form" to access application). The application will close at 5 p.m. on October 5, 2020 and the Selection Committee will have their final decisions for Working Group members made by October 16, 2020 . The Working Group will develop recommendations for Council to create an Anti-Racism plan based on community input.

  • August 18, 2020 Town Hall Summary and Anti Racism Advisory Working Group Next Steps

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    On July 30 and 31, 2020 the Region of Waterloo held two community Town Hall’s. A total of 32 individuals spoke at the sessions. Approximately 88% of the speakers identified as members of a racialized group or a member of the indigenous community. The recordings of these sessions can be found on the right side of this site under Background Information. If you didn't have a chance to participate in the Town Hall, there is still time to give your input. Please complete the survey on this page.

    Much of the input received provided direction to the Region about the creation of the Anti Racism Advisory Working Group. A selection committee has been created consisting of five community leaders that were suggested to the Region. We are very grateful to Victoria Rodney, Ismail Mohamed, Jean Becker, Grace Ibrahima and Lois MacDonald. The selection committee will develop the terms of reference for the Anti Racism Advisory Working Group based on the community input and will select the 10-15 members from a pool of applicants. Recruitment for the Working Group is expected to begin in early September with meetings beginning in October. The Working Group will develop recommendations for Council to create an Anti Racism plan based on community input.

    If you missed the Anti-Racism Town Halls watch the recordings for Thursday, July 30th at 6:00 p.m. and Friday, July 31st at 10:00 a.m.

Page last updated: 03 May 2022, 10:24 AM