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Markham announces strategy aimed at combatting anti-Black racism

Mayor Frank Scarpitti said enough wasn't being done after hearing personal experiences at rally
July 23, 2020
Aileen Zangouei

Markham has implemented a strategy to combat anti-Black racism, including appointing a special advisor to provide advice and guidance to address the issue.

Mayor Frank Scarpitti said that although some would say that Markham has a lot of initiatives in place to combat racism, it was when he was at a Black Lives Matter rally recently that he realized more needed to be done.

“Clearly for me, when I went to that rally, I heard more of the personal views of people, it was obvious to me that we haven’t done enough and that we need to do more,” Scarpitti said.

Scarpitti said he sees it as a “journey” to combat anti-Black racism, and one that is “far from over.” Markham’s new strategy is part of that journey, he said.

Markham is updating its Diversity Action Plan -- Everyone Welcome, which was an initiative created in 2010 to help make one of Canada’s most diverse communities work. Updates will involve seeking the advice of members of the Black community.

Markham has also appointed Mary Anne Chambers to the new role of special advisor, who will provide advice and guidance on measures to address anti-Black racism.

Scarpitti said that they are honoured Chambers has accepted the role.

“She has a led a distinguished career in business and politics, and served as Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, and Minister of Children and Youth Services in the Government of Ontario,” he said.

“She is a leader who understands the power of community involvement and has important insights into the possibilities of Canadian multiculturalism,” Scarpitti said.

Also part of the strategy, Markham is establishing a Mayor’s Anti-Black Racism Youth Liaison Committee. “I felt it critically important to have a committee made up of youth from across Markham that will have direct access to me and to senior management, and the new special advisor,” Scarpitti said.

Sydney Baxter, a young community leader in Markham, will be one of the members on the committee.

Scarpitti said that it was at a rally organized by Baxter he was able to hear personal experiences from the Black community and many of the children’s parents, and what their worries are.

Other parts to the strategy include undertaking an equity audit, beginning with the human resources department that is responsible for employee relations and recruitment, as well as training Markham council and staff on anti-Black racism.

Scarpitti said that he doesn’t know what the training involves yet, because he’s never had it, but added: “I think it will be wonderful to have … it will make us aware of some of the inherent things that are in place, again, that would be deemed as anti-Black racism, but I hope it also gives us the opportunity to train us so that we can recognize anti-Black racism.”

Scarpitti added that the training will be beneficial as it will help them to be able to “view things differently, and understand some of the experiences some of the members of the Black community faces.”

“We stand in solidarity, we are in lockstep to ensure that in this community, you can breathe, you can live, you can dream, you can pursue your hopes and reach your full potential without barriers,” Scarpitti said.