Mayor’s exec takes on identity politics, funds Indigenous office and anti-black racism program, talks free speech and accessibility on city property

Nov. 29, 2017

By Arianne Robinson

Mayor John Tory’s Executive Committee took identity politics head-on Tuesday with four big-feeling items.

The first was a request from the First Nations and Metis in the Aboriginal Affairs Committee for a permanent Indigenous office at city hall. Toronto Council Fire held a drum ceremony at city hall before the Executive Committee approved the Indigenous Affairs Office.

Next was the Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism. Public speakers talked about police officers in schools, carding, and some of their own community organizing during the discussion of funding to confront anti-black racism.

The issue about enhanced security at Toronto City Hall was also brought up. Activists and others spoke out about increased security measures at the building, arguing against having more security guards and the possibility of metal detectors at their local government.

Finally, starting sometime around 9 p.m., there was a free-speech item that asked what events should be allowed on city property, referencing a specific case before committee about Al-Quds Day in Toronto.

(On that last item, committee requested that City Manager Peter Wallace complete an extensive research consultation with constitutional scholars, experts, and stakeholders on whether the city can prevent public gatherings on its properties if the event is deemed to promote hate.)

Other items discussed during committee involved the costs of new staff positions and grant programs.

Funding requested for the Indigenous Affairs Office is for $480,000 for four positions and $40,000 for an external consultant position for a total of $520,000. The Aboriginal Affairs Committee has long advocated for the office, which would form part of the city’s commitment to fulfil eight of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s calls to action.

The funding request for the Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism is for $460,000  to fund five staff members, plus $535,000 in program grants (the total being $995,000). The action plan is the result of public engagement with black Torontonians, and involved a city-wide poster campaign last year.

The costs for the new programs will be part of the 2018 budget discussions at city hall, happening now and going into the winter.

The marathon meeting lasted just over 12 hours, ending with the Al-Quds item. One public speaker, Karen Rodman, read a letter she said Al-Quds Committee had sent to the city last Friday, but was not put online as part of the record. Tory told Rodman the letter had been distributed and he had the letter before him. As of time of publication it was still not available online.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated clerk’s staff would not make the letter from the “Al-Quds Committee” available to view after the meeting. A letter from the chairperson of this committee was available, however other letters submitted to the committee by the public were not available.