Ottawa anti-racism forum nears 300 participants

OTTAWA – Residents from across Ottawa representing diverse groups came together to participate in the United for All Coalition in collaboration with City of Ottawa, Anti-Racism in Ottawa Public Listening Forum held virtually on July 28.

More than 270 participants joined the forum to hear from speakers, participate in open discussions about racism in our community, and hear about lived experiences in Ottawa.

Participants heard from Abid Jan of the United for All Coalition, as well as keynote speaker, Hindia Mohamoud, Director of the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership, on systemic inequities, prevention and perspectives on solutions. Participants also heard from Sophia Jacob, Equity and Diversity Liaison for the office of Coun. Rawlson King, and Jean-Francois Ratelle, from United for All Coalition, who presented a contextual overview of anti-racism work in Ottawa.

King, the City of Ottawa’s Council Liaison for Anti-Racism and Ethnocultural Relations Initiatives acknowledged racism and discrimination is a pressing issue in our community and that now is the time to take action.

King also gave an overview of the work currently being done by the city’s Anti-Racism Secretariat and introduced participants to Yusra Osman, the city’s new anti-racism specialist. Osman will be leading the city’s work on the Anti-Racism Strategy and will help the city apply a race equity lens to its programs, services, and policies to ensure that Indigenous, Black, and racialized community members can have the opportunity to experience a city that serves them fully.

The forum presented participants with the opportunity to have an open discussion, where residents shared their experiences of systemic and overt racism in the community. Common themes from the discussion included the mental health impacts of racism, racism in the workplace, the lack of feeling secure and welcome in the community, and the lack of representation in organizations and in leadership positions.

In addition, participants emphasized the need for investment in anti-racism programs, moving beyond conversations to action. They are appreciative of the vital work being done by grassroots organizations, many of whom participated in the forum.

The forum also highlighted shared experiences from community leaders, including Elder Albert Dumont, Dumont, who reflected on lived experiences of Indigenous communities, Richard Sharpe, who spoke about the lived experiences of African, Caribbean, and Black communities, and Dr. Xiaobei Chen, who presented on the lived experiences of Asian communities.

Mayor Jim Watson spoke about the important role municipalities have in the fight against racism, as well as the importance of hearing the participants’ stories and lived experiences and how they will be helpful in moving the city’s anti-racism plan forward.

The city will use the perspective and ideas that came out of the forum to help shape a public engagement strategy. This strategy will include focus groups with community members, online engagement, as well as a survey.

Work is currently underway on the survey, and it will be made available to residents later this summer.

This work is being done to help with the development of the city’s Anti-Racism Strategy. The work of the anti-racism secretariat will also add an anti-racism lens to the city’s Strategic Plan and policies while building on previous work done to address racial inequity and systemic racism.

The information and stories coming out of the forum will also inform United for All Coalition’s action plan and work going forward. United for All Coalition will fundraise to continue their important work.

The forum was a reminder that combating racism and discrimination in our community isn’t the work of one group or one group of individuals – it is a collective responsibility to build a more inclusive and equitable community for all residents of Ottawa.