Open Letter to Pickering City Council

With Break The Chains Pickering, we have written an open letter to express our disappointment in response to the City's establishment of the Pickering Anti-Black Racism Task Force. We have been raising this critical point to the City of Pickering for the past two months. In response, the Black community has faced either silence or performative activism.

Dear Deputy Mayor Kevin Ashe and City Councillors of Pickering:

After engaging in a number of meetings with the members of City Council, we have come to the conclusion that the City Council of Pickering has little to no regard towards the well-being of its residents, especially its Black residents. It is disheartening that despite our mutual agreement on the importance for the voices of youth leadership to be heard, the Pickering City Council has met these community voices with deliberate vague actions, passive attitudes and disregard to concerns presented.

As members and allies of the Black community of Pickering, we were appalled at the mishandling of the establishment of the Pickering Anti-Black Racism Task Force. The City’s proposal to have its Cultural Advisory Committee (CAC) take a lead on addressing Anti-Black racism is both insulting and regressive, as their primary mandate is to promote and celebrate
arts and culture rather than confront systemic racial injustice, anti-Black racism nor race relations. Anti-Black racism is not a cultural issue. Celebrating diversity is important, but using it as a means to solve anti-Black racism is a clear sign of the level of ignorance and lack of depth in understanding the racial injustices faced by Black residents of Pickering. The impact of anti-Black racism is seen in recreation, policing, justice, library services, economic development, job opportunities, public health, education, and access to decision-making within the civic processes. Therefore, to limit the scope of the work needed to address these systematic issues through an advisory committee that is completely unequipped, unstructured and inadequately supported on set critical matters. A simple review of the video of the committee’s last meeting clearly illustrates this fact through their dismissive mishandling of the discussion.

This is why we are asking for a Pickering Anti-Black Racism Task Force that is autonomous of the CAC or any other advisory committees, directly liaising with City Council. It is imperative that this Task Force has clear goals, terms of reference, and recruitment policies created with the input of those that are most impacted by anti-Black racism at the forefront -- the Black residents of Pickering. We ask the City Council to engage with Break the Chains Pickering, Urban
Alliance on Race Relations, and other Black-led organizations that are focused on addressing anti-Black racism to decide on the goals, mandate, recruitment, terms of reference, and other aspects of the Task Force. We want to ensure that the work which will address the issue of anti-Black racism is directly reported to the Council and, at the same token, that the Council has direct accountability for this work. Anything short of this arrangement will be tokenistic and will not be accepted by the Black residents whose day-to-day lives are severely impacted by systemic racism.

Our experience at the last CAC meeting was very disappointing, devaluing, and a clear example of performative activism. We would like to raise a number of concerns separately through any existing complaint mechanisms that the City Council has in place which deal with complaints related to a committee. Please let us know of the avenue(s) that can be accessed to address these concerns independently from the main issue being addressed in this letter. That being said, we are tired of the attempts by systems and institutions to dilute the serious systemic and structural issues of anti-Black racism as merely cultural or diversity-related issues. We must move forward our proposal for the Task Force as soon as possible so that the Black residents in Pickering can begin to see positive changes in their city. You can do better. You must do better. Your Black residents deserve better.

Break the Chains Pickering and Urban Alliance on Race Relations

For more information, please contact:

Break the Chains Pickering

Email: [email protected]
FB: Break the Chains Pickering
Instagram: @breakthechainspk

Urban Alliance on Race Relations

FB: UARRToronto
Twitter: @UARRToronto
Instagram: @UARRCanada
Email: [email protected]
Tel: 416-703-6607

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