“As an immigrant, but also as a Black child, you’re reminded that you have to work, you know, three times more, you have to work five times harder like you don’t have the luxury to feel,” says Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist, Allison Hector-Alexander.
Hector-Alexander’s words are a reminder it is essential for the Black community to be safe in the place they call home.
According to Community Development Council Durham, two in every 25 Durham residents are Black. Ajax has the highest population of Blacks in any major Canadian city. In 2016, 30 per cent of Durham’s population identified as a visible minority, with eight per cent self-identifying as Black.
Hector-Alexander, director, Office of Student Diversity, Inclusion and Transitions at Durham College, says feedback and discussions about diversity, equity and inclusion are important and this is why she volunteered to be a member of The City of Oshawa’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee.
DEI formed during the pandemic in summer 2020 and has a mixture of many races, gender and people of disabilities. The committee assists city staff by providing feedback on diversity, equity and inclusion.
Hector-Alexander is looking to make a difference but says she shouldn’t be alone when speaking about equity because it’s essential for everyone to be represented and have a voice.
“There are other lenses that you need around the table, because I can’t do it alone,” says Hector-Alexander. “I need other voices … to amplify the work that needs to happen.”
To ensure this work happens, the City of Oshawa’s Chief Administrative Officer advised Julie MacIsaac, the Director of Innovation and Transformation, to form a diversity and inclusion plan which later helped create the DEI committee.
According to MacIsaac, they formed a collaboration with professors and students from the faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at Ontario Tech, who have conducted research and review plans from other municipalities.
“We led a significant consultation with our community and what they wanted to see,” says MacIsaac. “Then we built the plan and we had it through to council and then we were successful in getting a diversity inclusion officer so that it’s a temporary position.”
Uzma Danish, chair of the DEI committee and Course Assistant at Trent University, says she’s seen a gap between connecting with people’s experiences but has noticed the work City of Oshawa is doing behind the scenes.
“It is not something that is going to be done overnight, it’s not gonna happen like that,” says Danish. “Changes, that are long-lasting, [will] happen with the focus, with an intention.”
Many municipalities across the province are looking to incorporate anti-racism training, and racial inclusion, including the City of Oshawa’s Call it Out: Racism, Racial Discrimination and Human Rights, available as an e-course.
Aside from the current anti-racism courses provided for the City of Oshawa staff, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Monica Kendel, incorporates educational movies, books and resources for staff.
MacIsaac says it’s important to have anti-racism training to support racialized people.
“We do women’s training or health and safety training because it’s legislated. But [anti-racism] is really important as well because it’s about emotional safety,” says MacIsaac. “It’s not just about health and safety, but it’s about emotional safety and ensuring that our community and our workforce is actually feeling safe.”
Hector-Alexander says anti-racism has to be incorporated within society.
“We have got to make the most of it because we’re hoping that you know if we can reach people who recognize that this is an issue,” says Hector- Alexander. “They can use their voice, or they can use their whiteness to help amplify voices for racialized people then it gives you hope.”